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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Summary: We found the Koningsdam a very happy ship with crew who are engaging and working very hard with and for you to make your cruise enjoyable. We do like the ship and size and overall do not feel that it is too big and ‘feel’ the ... Read More
Summary: We found the Koningsdam a very happy ship with crew who are engaging and working very hard with and for you to make your cruise enjoyable. We do like the ship and size and overall do not feel that it is too big and ‘feel’ the crowds, except embarkation/disembarkation and on peak times in the Lido (as discussed many times previously by other reviews). We felt high numbers of tourists also at several touristic destinations and this had also an influence on our own visiting experience. For example by trying to place orders on busy side walk cafés or simply just to walk around (more details per destination). May I add that we remain surprised that cruise passengers felt the urge to cut into lines during peak times and during disembarkation. When the gangway entrance was roped off so that a proper line was formed, passengers trying to cut lines and even dare to jump over the rope in order to save waiting time. Front office staff had to step in to sort out and even needed to police persons and shout at them to behave properly. This review is focused on not so common review topics and hope this way to add other information other topics than usually reviewed: Route/Voyage: this route of 12 days is offered less often as the sailing is set from Rome to Amsterdam along European ports which are frequented less often with stops in Barcelona, Valencia, Cartagena, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon, Vigo, Cherbourg and Zeebrugge. As only 2 sea days were included, we decided that in some ports we would not travel far away and to stay within the town of the port. We do not purchase ship’s excursions, simply because we want to experience the visiting destinations as much as possible. Sometimes we included some shopping but please remember that most Mediterranean family shops will close for lunch somewhere between 13.00 – 16.00 hours, unless they only focus on tourists. Department stores as El Corte Inglés will remain open during the entire day. Passengers: there was a great mix of nationalities and I believe the mix due was extra diverse due its unique route. Along passengers from North America, who were being still in the majority, a large group of Australian (400 persons), Asian and European passengers were cruising along, which makes the atmosphere on board vibrant & alive. Embarkation: Instead of putting your luggage away yourself at the dock, we asked help from the porter service, which prevented us to joining a queue and save some time. We are 3 star mariner and received a check in and boarding number 2. As we arrived at the terminal 11.15 hours, we actually could check in right away and waited 15 mts to board. The terminal in Civitavecchia is a makeshift terminal/tent and there is no bridge to the ship. Because it rained and there is no cover walking on to the ship, umbrellas were provided to walk over to the ship. Food & Beverage/Dining: Tamarind is always really very nice and still our favourite, its location is on deck 10 aft with pool and wake views and such gracious service: surprisingly never too busy, while you are treated very royally and the ship’s best food is served?! Is the US$ 25 surcharge an obstacle or is Pan Asian cuisine more unknown than the Pinnacle Grill with a similar surcharge? MDR service and food was excellent, many waiters/waitresses showed a funny & kind personality inter-acting with the guests! At the Lido the staff tries so hard to cope with the high demand on peak times but due to its design, it is very challenging to provide excellent service. On top of that the Lido dining chairs weigh so much, you hardly can slide a chair in/out underneath of the table, which makes it clumsy for buffet style restaurant, where need to go quickly in/out of a table many times during your meal. For breakfast we returned to the same buffet corner where the same culinary staff was cooking. They remembered our preferences and had them ready when we would walk up. Our ‘secret’ and more quiet lunch place became the NY Deli & Pizza (deck 10), where there was hardly any wait for sandwiches, pizza’s or even salads, all freshly made within minutes. I sneaked in the Dive In to collect some French fries to eat along (it is a vacation after all!). When I went for an ice-cream, I happily paid extra at Gelato (US$ 2.00 for 3 scoops) but there was no sugar free ice-cream available. So I decided to try the normal icecream at the Lido on another day. Lido offered no-sugar-added ice-cream for free. Dutch Grand Café: a nice solution for little snacks or coffee in a pleasant setting. Along the snacks offered also some typical Dutch delicacies. Coffee is differently made here (much stronger) and to our taste, the coffee on Explorations Café was the best, as the milk is foamed by steamer by hand versus any other heated milk coming out of any machine. Our sommelier recommend the “Wine Maker’s Dinner” served in the Culinary Arts Centre at US$ 89 p.p. (incl. no extra 15% service charge): it is a 7 course dinner with matching (Chateau Ste. Michelle) wines ánd upon arrival an additional alcoholic based aperitive. Two remarks only: too much alcohol offered, (yes I know it supposed to be wine-pairing, but how much can you take even on a vacation?) and why are all Chateau Ste. Michelle wines require blending to make/become a drinkable wine? Last but not least two special treats: on the second Sea Day a delightful & complete afternoon tea was served with live music in the Queen’s Lounge, waiters decked out in white dinner jackets with white gloves and re-appeared in the late evening with little chocolate treats on deck 2 in the Music Walk area (so much better than these chocolate fountains). And because it was Mother’s Day on disembarkation, all women received a little chocolate treat to take home at the exit. Bars & Lounges: visited Ocean Bar and Crow’s Nest mostly for drinks, tried also Panorama Bar (no atmosphere). Staff was great & friendly, remembered favourite drink orders and offered little hors d’oeuvres. If you order a tomato juice than the bar will charge you differently (juice US$ 3.00) than when ask them to add tobacco and angostura bitter (cocktail virgin mary US$ 9.00, which is the same price incl. wodka). However the mocktails are only priced around US$ 5.00. Activities: Behind the scenes ship’s talk and/or walk: Captain Darin Bowland and Hotel Director Charles Verwaal presented at the second Sea Day a talk in the theatre more background about the ship & staff. These two gentlemen were great speakers and shared very interested details but also entertained us in a gracious and sometimes funny way. Both Captain & Hotel Director left the ship in Amsterdam: Captain Bowland will dedicate his time now only on the Nieuw Statendam, as he has the experience with delivering the Koningsdam. The singers & dancers also held with Cruise Director Ben Yates in the same day a talk about the shows in the morning, held also at the theatre and provided inside information how shows are put together and offered a behind the scenes back stage. Spa: although the massage treatment I was provided for in a very professional way, the bill ended up with an amount of US$ 200 (incl. service charge): this is really excessive! The Spa refuses to accept treatment less than 70 minutes and focus on hard-selling treatment for 70 or preferably 90 minutes only! During the entire cruise at the Lido pool is a Spa promotion booth located and there always were at least 3 Spa attendants present trying to push Spa services (no wonder?!). Sailing with open forward deck 5: on some sailings towards the destination and its arrival in port, forward deck 5 was opened (with a jacuzzi) and provided excellent views. Also staff was present to sell some beverages and offered a mimosa (US$ 3.00) during lunch time. IT and WiFi: The Navigator app works and WiFi work well around the ship until one evening IT problems arose where the entire ship did not function with IT related services. The entire crew had to adjust from working with PCs (reception) or tablet typing orders (restaurants & bars) to traditional paper & pen. In fact the captain delayed the ship’s departure for a few hours as IT needed to work properly in the outlets and on the bridge before we could leave port properly. WiFi worked again and on the last day before embarkation a similar IT problem occurred and the Navigotor app became unavailable along with the bill printer services in the main lobby. Staff could access the bills fortunately via their own system. Entertainment: each ‘entertainer’ works very hard to play live and perform: whether it was classical music, piano music, band related, or singing/dancing, it was always well presented by energetic talented people. The number ship’s shows on our 12 days journey existed of a total of 6 ship’s productions (incl. the first show which introduces the passengers to all different entertainment during the voyage). These shows are supported by pre-recorded music and/or a live band plays and of course the Planet Earth II show with all musicians playing live during the special created film. On 5 other nights guest stars presented themselves on stage with comedy, music or illusion. Personally we enjoy best the ship’s shows as these are more vibrant but that is a personal preference. The theatre seating capacity does not reflect the need & interest of the passengers: some shows are offered 3 times and others 2 times where one time the theatre is overflowing and passengers are sent way as there no seats left and other times the theatre has many empty seats. Personally we think it has to do not only with the interest but also if there are early excursions planned the next morning? During some shows (dancing) the full stage is used and for other shows the extra round piece of stage is taken away and extra seats are placed instead. The led wall enhances the performances especially the ship’s shows make full use of it. We were not impressed with the British Cruise Director Ben Yates, he needed to read out special messages or share information/update messages from a piece of paper while addressing the passengers seated in the theatre prior/post a performance in the theatre. Also many times he would express his mood and say many times “Good Stuff”. Personally I believe that such comments can be shared in a pub surrounded with your local mates in Great Britain, but it do not reflect the grandeur the elegant Koningsdam ship. Disembarkation: it was not a pretty sight where too many passengers trying to walk off and it seemed nearly all at once. Not all passengers are as well behaved as explained before. Nevertheless it was a nice cruise. Ports of call: We arrange our own transport and hardly use ship’s excursions as besides the financial advantage, it provides a fun way of learning more and engaging with the locals. As a European citizen I have access to data on my mobile phone and although I looked up many public transport possibilities in advance, via the infamous google search engine I can look up in most destination the current timing of local transport and how I can walk the rest of the journey on foot. Barcelona: we bought entrée tickets with a confirmed slot time to the Picasso Museum and unfortunately the museum closed that day due to a strike. We took the port shuttle from the ship’s D terminal (€ 5 p.p.) to the World Trade Centre. Inside the terminal these tickets were sold by an independent company and were using brand new busses. From WTC it is walking distance to Ramblas and other attractions. We took bus D20 with a stop around the corner and leaving every 15 minutes and 6 stops to Pla de Palau and then another walk into the Gothic district. We stayed & enjoyed in the Gothic district and eventually walked back all the way to WTC (via Ramblas). Ramblas (and the city in general) is getting very overcrowded, if you walk the smaller side streets, you will see more of the true city. Barcelona overall is overcrowded with tourists and local people are also getting fetup with tourism and it can show. Valencia: transport from the port is also selling here tickets for an independent shuttle from the port to city centre (€ 10 p.p.) but as the price of local taxis is not too high and the distance is reasonable, you can also skip the long queue (buying tickets from one window) and pay about € 9,00 one way, it is no brainer! Valencia is the inventor of the paella and many local restaurants gladly serve you individual portions and you are obliged to order one large pan for the entire table. The terminal could not handle well the volume of passengers either. Oceania Riviera was docked too and when all passengers were returning, it was too much and long lines appeared quickly. Cartagena: we docked as the only ship and walked into town and all is walkable. Koningsdam was the only ship and immediately the experience becomes a different. There is a Roman theatre opposite the port, which you can see a little from the steps opposite the port (for free), or walk into the museum (for a fee). The town hall is a beautiful building and provides tours during the day incl. Saturday. Great local shops with excellent bargains (clothes) and offer that when a large cruise ship is town, most shops will remain open. Everywhere are dotted around little restaurants and outside terraces. There is a tourist bus service which drives around from the street across the port to some of the highlights around the town and next to this bus stop is also a train (pulled by a car) offering a route focused more in the city centre. The tour of the bus a bigger/longer and also stops 2X where you are able to get off to have look. The second stop takes you to a lovely little beach. Make sure of the frequency of the next service! As our day stop was on May 5, a Fiesta was held and the twon was buzzing due to little street festivals (music along with food & drink stalls) and the locals were all dressed up in stunning dresses and suites. You really had the feeling that the locals welcomed the passengers and looking back, this became the best port experience from this cruise as it was real and unique. Gibraltar: we took the local bus #3 to the cable car. The bus stop is walking distance from the port, passing the statue with passengers & luggage. Bus #10 also goes there. Bus fare can be bought in Euros or Pounds inside the bus and it a day ticket costs very little. Outside the terminal plenty of taxis offer a service to drive you up/down and there is also a tour agent selling the transfer in minivans including entrance to the cable car. We pre-booked cable car tickets online so we had a quicker access to the top and have priority of other clients with no pre-booking and the local bus was quick & easy. Cable car service will be upgraded in 2020 and services improved. Now persons with mobility challenges need to walk now certain steps/staircases before entering or exiting the actual cable car. Once arrived on the top within 6 minutes, views are great. Stay inside the little restaurant (glass building) if you decide to eat or drink, otherwise the monkeys will jump at you and take it away in a flash. We saw two persons being attacked and it was not funny. The bus stop to return back is across the parking lot and walk underneath the little bridge/tunnel. Duty free shops in the terminal were great value and compared to other airport or ships duty free prices about 25% lower! If you like to walk, walk to town and cable car: it is about 25 minutes’ walk and expect some height difference during your walk. Cadiz: free port shuttle will take you off the official port area and brought us to the gate and mini terminal. As QM2 was also present with Seaborn Quest along with Windstar and Seadream I, Cadiz was overflowing with passengers along with other regular tourists, visitors and locals. The normally narrow streets & squares were overflown and we did not enjoy this. We escaped the mass to walk the seafront where is more space and enjoyed the stunning views of the skyline (looks like Havanna in Cuba and therefore a James Bond film was shot here instead). Also a visit to the impressive cathedral was great and for € 6 an audio tour was provided. Upon return the little mini terminal had to cope with the security check of large number of passengers. Lisbon: we docked at the newest facility: Jardim do Tabaco and is located in the northern part of the city, and it’s the closest to the city centre. Walking distance is 20 minutes. As Lisbon is a large town and built over different hills (stunning views) along the lovely embankment parks and monumental buildings, we opted to rent a little car. There are also e-bikes or tuktuk services available or the large double decker busses Hopon/off. As the city centre has many narrow streets, the large busses are not able to go there. So we choose the car service, this provided us a way to see more in the short amount of time and as GPS is part of the rental service, you will receive an education along your ride! I tried to contact 3 different companies and only one called Lisbon Eco Tours provided the best possible service and were extremely customer focused & professional. They offer to rent a Renault Twizy and it is a fun car and completely electric, runs up to 80 km p/hr and takes easily two adults up the hill. We had plenty of stops and alternated our tour where we needed to change it. As there is a lot of traffic, you just need to follow other traffic and it is actually not intimidating at all. Expect to become an attraction yourself as many people will take a photo. After the 4 hour tour with stops, we had lunch at a local restaurant (taken there by our request by the owners of the company) and ordered the typical local food & wine. I would do this any time again whenever I will return to Lisbon. Also Lisbon is spread out with lots of public space (parks & squares), we did not feel squeezed into the city, although the city attracted many visitors. Locals are really open, friendly and welcoming. Vigo: we registered for a tour of the town by a local operator called tours4cruises.com: € 17 per person for a 1,5 tour with stops at the beach, a lovely museum / stately home and on the highest viewing point. As this tour has a personal guide, the quality of the information is excellent and plenty of time to ask for questions. If you reserve in advance pay one euro via PayPal, they will keep your seat(s) in your bus reserved, which is a very nice gesture as many people again are trying to block seats while entering the bus. The port also faces a shopping mall (half empty) but connects via a walking bridge to a higher floor to the old city centre. As this town is extremely hilly, you can literally zoom up the escalators and cross the street via the man-made bridge. Town is pretty and due to its northern location it is a little greener. The beach along the Atlantic is pretty and there is an island not far away which won the award of best European beach. Certainly a town to revisit again. Cherbourg: this town is a sleeping with a port for ferries to the UK. As we decided not to travel away and made reservations with a local restaurant listed in the Gault Millau Guide: Le Vauban. A restaurant run by a married couple and it was a delight! Special 3 course lunch, half a bottle of Chablis, coffees & chocolates and an aperitive with little snacks for € 70 per person. We dined happily along the locals in a full restaurant. The port offers a bus shuttle to take passengers to a nearby shopping mall (again not fully used) and from there you can cross a little river via bridge and walk into town or take an other little train around the place. We walked to the city centre within 15 minutes. Some very typical French shops offering local fruit & veg, wines, cheese, breads, ready to take away for a little picnic. Zeebrugge: as Zeebrugge has not much to offer we looked at various options. A local tram (#10) passes the gates of the port enroute to the seaside town of Knokke in less than 40 minutes. Than of course the famous town of Brugge is there and can be reached by train or port shuttle. The train can be reached by the port shuttle (free) to the station and is the least expensive option for around €7 per person return ticket and train journey is 20 minutes. We choose the cruise-express.be for €20 per person. The shuttle picks you up outside the port gates and runs every half hour. Train & cruise express bus stop close to each other as the train station and bus parking are nearly next to each other. Everyone is required to walk into the city via a beautiful park. As Brugge is a historic city with hardly any access by car or bus, expect to walk a longer distance to reach the town. Than the old streets are cobbled stoned and very hard to walk on and nearly impossible tp push children’s prams, wheelchairs or walkers. The town was extremely busy and on top of its regular visitors, it was a Bank Holiday weekend and a couple of ships were in port: Costa, Brittania (P&O) and us. Besides little boat tours on the local canals, the roads are used to allow visitors to walk on but are shared with bikers, horse & carriage, few taxis and small hop on/off busses. Than through it woven in are large groups led with guides, who try to remain together as much as possible. We are able bodies persons and we just gave it all up. We sat down for a drink when we found a spot (by luck) and decided to return and leave the stunning town the thousands of others. We will be back when it is less busy. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Chose this cruise "European Spendors" because of the itinerary. Chose Holland America because of price and itinerary and because they are one of the few lines to offer KINGSIZE beds. The embarkation onto MS Koningsdam was without ... Read More
Chose this cruise "European Spendors" because of the itinerary. Chose Holland America because of price and itinerary and because they are one of the few lines to offer KINGSIZE beds. The embarkation onto MS Koningsdam was without a hitch. As suite-holders, SA7085, we had expedited boarding and our stateroom was ready as soon as we boarded. One bag arrived promptly, another, two hours later. (?) Disembarkation was equally smooth. Our cabin exceeded our expectations as far as space, storage, and amenities. There were ample electrical outlets of both the 220v and 110v variety, plus USB ports for charging. The veranda was spacious and furnished with a round table, 4 chairs, two deck chairs + ottomans. We made good use of it. The bath was large with a separate water closet, a stand-up shower with rain head and hand-held shower. There was also a whirlpool tub and two sinks. All done in beige/white marble, the entire effect was one of luxury. Loved the high-end bath products--particularly the minty bath gel. The Neptune Lounge was a HUGE perk as was the free laudry and dry cleaning. The food in the main dining room at dinner was less than inspired, being bland. Tastes vary, but this was so lacking in flavor as to be tasteless. The choices of menu were extensive. I can't imagine anyone not finding something they wanted to eat. The service was very slow. One couple missed the 8:30 entertainment twice because of poor service. We ate in the main dining room three times and then switched to the specialty restaurants: The Pinnacle Grill, The Sel de Mar, and The Tamarind. We did not use the Cannelleto because of its location on the Lido deck. It was in the midst of massive traffic at the self-serve venues and consequently very noisy. The breakfasts at the Pinnacle Grill were excellent and the service impeccable. We found the food in all the specialty restaurants to be fabulous and worth the upcharge. The service in the speciaty restaurants was equally good. One negative: THE SPA We booked spa services (couples' massage) and while the actual massages--when they got around to actually GIVING them--were adequate, we had to endure 20 minutes or more of heavy upsell for services we indicated we did not want (acupunture and a special heated gel for $50.00 a tube). I was so irritated by having to pay for 20 minutes of sales pitch taken from my 75 minute massage that we never went back, although I should have like to have had another massage and a mani-pedi. Throughout the ship, the service personnel were quick to assist and always smiling. Either this is a happy ship or Holland America has worked magic on its personnel, as they were across the board, pleasant. I wish I could say the same for some of the passengers! The majority of shore excursions we took I booked personally through private tour guides with private transportation. These were excellent and exposed the difficiencies with the tours booked through the cruise line. We took four shore excursions through Holland America. The groups were very large and the travelling time in busses exceeded the time spent viewing the sites. The busses were a mixed bag. Some were lovely and spacious with working air conditioning. Others were tight and hot. The guides were by-and-large knowledgeable but with such large groups, they had their work cut out for them. I would not recommend the HAL shore excursions for anything in depth. Go to CC roll call, scout out the posts that indicate private tours passengers have booked and are open to additional members and sign up for a small private tour. Entertainment was varied and ranged from a pleasant diversion (the magician) to fabulous (dancers and singers). I personally recommend the BBC Earth special accompanied by a live orchestra. The love lorn sloth will forever remain in my memory as comic relief. The BB King group were particularly good and another of our friends never missed the two pianos. Taken as a whole, this was a fabulous cruise and we booked another for next year. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
1st - No airports, no re-packing for 50 days, 13,000 miles roundtrip, transatlantic x 2, spanned the length of the Med, and included Casablanca and 3 Portugese islands. 2nd- Served the best tasting HAL food in Lido and main dining ... Read More
1st - No airports, no re-packing for 50 days, 13,000 miles roundtrip, transatlantic x 2, spanned the length of the Med, and included Casablanca and 3 Portugese islands. 2nd- Served the best tasting HAL food in Lido and main dining room compared to last 4 HAL cruises. No complaint about our Veranda deck Vista suite cabin. Brought a room thermometer which showed between 68 and 72 degrees daily. This voyage visited Mediterrean countries during the month of November when the temps dipped to the 50's at night. Some public rooms occasionally were cold. 3rd - The ports were fantastic and 95 percent of time we had the closest berth to town when other ships were present. When shuttles were arranged, some ports' buses were $6 + per person roundtrip from ship to town, be aware 4th - The captain, officers and crew were fantastic. 6 stars. 5th - Would love to cruise these ports again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
My husband and I had a wonderful time on our recent cruise on the Koningsdam. We would definitely go on this ship again. Our cruise began in Rome and ended in Amsterdam, and it was action packed! Wonderful port cities, almost too much ... Read More
My husband and I had a wonderful time on our recent cruise on the Koningsdam. We would definitely go on this ship again. Our cruise began in Rome and ended in Amsterdam, and it was action packed! Wonderful port cities, almost too much to absorb in two weeks. The ship itself is absolutely beautiful--very elegant and the specialty dining rooms are especially nice. As for changes that other cruisers have noted, I have the same set of complaints: 1) the Promenade deck is narrower with restricted views of the water. No deck chairs!; 2) no library; 3) the character of the Crow's Nest seems to have changed. It's not the elegant spot it was before. There was a lot of spill over from the Explorer's Cafe. On the other hand, we enjoyed the new music venues, particularly the BB King Blues Club. The food in the specialty restaurants was especially good, and the decor in the Tamirand was beautiful. Dining was rather mixed for us. The dining room is beautiful and the service continues to excel. We didn't thing the food was quite as good as on our other HAL cruises. It was very good, but not superb. Eating in the Lido was problematic. If we went during traditional meal hours, it could be quite difficult to find a table anywhere. We found that a good number of passengers liked to stake out tables and stay there for hours--it was an important meeting place for them. We liked the pizza restaurant and the Dutch cafe. We never went hungry for sure. As for other issues there were many positives. Embarkation was a bit of a crowded mess, but disembarkation was incredibly easy. Our bus transportation from the airport was very easy, although there was a pretty long walk through a very crowded airport in between baggage claim and the buses. We stayed in a Neptune Suite, so it was lovely and our cabin stewards were excellent. We only went on one ship excursion to Normandy, but we also used the ship as transportation to Florence which worked very smoothly. Overall, we had a terrific time. This itinerary was amazing, and we had such a good time seeing so many beautiful cities. Yes, we would go again. I think our next cruise will be on a smaller ship, but I would not hesitate to rebook on the Koningsdam. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Rooms NOT to get - 8132/8134/8136 and opposite side Loved the cruise but there is a real issue with noise transferring thru the floor on some specific rooms. 8132, 8134, 8136, and the corresponding ones on the other side of the ship. ... Read More
Rooms NOT to get - 8132/8134/8136 and opposite side Loved the cruise but there is a real issue with noise transferring thru the floor on some specific rooms. 8132, 8134, 8136, and the corresponding ones on the other side of the ship. This made the balcony unusable, and the room not usable to even take a nap thru the day. Couldn't figure out why there was continuous loud metal scraping sounds until we went up to the lido deck. There are 14 chairs starboard, and 14 port that are placed behind the coffee station located on ceramic tile type floor, as opposed to carpet for the rest of the area. Each time someone sits (and drags the chair in place, or rises and does the same, the metal feet cause a terrible noise. This goes on from ~6am-1030pm. The chairs are all heavy so lifting isn't really possible for guest. We spoke to the Lido manager (Bram) and he indicated 1. They can't put carpet there because of food regulations, (the chairs in the carpeted area don't cause the noise issue) 2. the plastic feet have worn off the chairs in less than 6 months, they've had plenty of complaints with some guests being offered other cabins but ours was an accessible one so not an option. We really enjoyed all other aspects of our first cruise, and we were out most days on excursions, or 2 days we booked cabanas because we couldn't enjoy our balcony. This is more of a caution to others about these specific room locations. Others affected, questioned how, after 19 cruises that the mgmt hasn't figured out a solution....guess there must be a real bureaucracy to get approval to find a solution. ie slip on plastic feet that could be replaced as they wear, since Bram said they can't give up the 14x2 seats. Staff are there all the time so they could also just block this area off with those rope things they have everywhere restricting access, until the other carpeted areas a full, instead of having guests fill these areas. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Arrived in Barcelona 2 days prior to the cruise definitely could of spent a few extra days there. Embarkation as smooth as silk as was disembarkation. This is the second time we have sailed in the Eurodam, and she didn't ... Read More
Arrived in Barcelona 2 days prior to the cruise definitely could of spent a few extra days there. Embarkation as smooth as silk as was disembarkation. This is the second time we have sailed in the Eurodam, and she didn't disappoint us at all. The cabin we had a Verandah Balcony Cabin love it plenty of room wardrobe space and love how they have put the TV on the wall.Our cabin stewards were polite and helpful and kept our stateroom spotless. We took out the unlimited laundry package which we found good value for money. Dining we always eat in the Lido Restauarant as found it more relaxing and less noise, food was excellent, ate in the Canaletto, Pinnacle and Tamarind Restaurants all worthy of a visit but Tamarind our favourite. The entertainment we found d average if you are on a 24 night cruise the entertainment is repeated on the second leg, our favourite venue was the BB King Bar or Queens lounge ,Agustin the main Bar Steward is amazing and a lovely soul and his helpers are excellent. If we had one thing to complain about is the 15% put onto every drink or item you purchased. Then you have a gratuities charge of $12.50 per person a day , I think this is over the top although you can reduce or stop it as long as you fill out a form. There were a lot of Aussies on board as well as your mix of Americans ,British ,Kiwis Canadians. We booked our own tours privately as we find Holland america tours are expensive. Would we sail with HAL again . Yes we would... Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
First things first, be aware that MS Koningsdam was our fifth cruiser. Our first trip was on board Hal’s Ryndam (September 2011), and we became addicts to this way of travel. It really was a dreamlike trip. Consequently, we had high ... Read More
First things first, be aware that MS Koningsdam was our fifth cruiser. Our first trip was on board Hal’s Ryndam (September 2011), and we became addicts to this way of travel. It really was a dreamlike trip. Consequently, we had high hopes for our 26-day-long journey on board the Koningsdam (from Amsterdam all the way to Rome). However, we were unpleasantly surprised. We realized soon enough that the Koningsdam had nothing in common with the Ryndam. Despite the fact that it is a nice and large ship, common spaces are quite small and not efficiently divided so as to avoid mixing different styles of music (classical at Lincoln Center, piano music at Billboard the amazing tunes of B.B. King’s All Star Band). On board entertainment is lacking and the interpreters and general performance at the World Stage are far from being top-shelf. The whole ambience lacks warmth. We got the impression that no stone was left unturned to make our journey as uncomfortable as possible. Let me give you some reasons to back that statement: 1. Employees: most had unhappy faces or were unfriendly. Some were even impolite (mainly the ones at the casino and bars). Still, the worst ones were the supervisors at the Lido Market. 2. Meals: they were poorly scheduled. More often than not, you simply could not get anything to eat (except for hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza). Sometimes, the Lido Market Buffet happened to be closed when the Daily Navigator Magazine stated that it should be open. Furthermore, we were awestruck when they closed the buffet in our face at one point. 3. Cleaning and maintenance: these activities were performed in common spaces even when they were teeming with people. It is our impression that this was done to keep people on their feet and make them circulate. We found it to be rude. After all, it is a cruiser, not a McDonald’s. 4. Air-conditioning: it was never right. You were always either hot or cold. Another scheme to make people move along? It would not surprise us. 5. Sun Deck ceiling: opening and closing it produced extremely loud and irritating sounds. It scared everyone every time it started. Besides, the choice of opening it did not make much sense. Sometimes it got opened when it was really cloudy or even raining! 6. Sun Deck buffet while in Gibraltar: desserts were placed under the sun even before the main courses. After an hour, the place was filled with flies from the mainland. Not a smart move. All in all, my husband, my friends and I got the impression that we were at the mercy of the ship’s management. “The customer is always right” got thrown out the window. If I had to choose between the Ryndam, Carnival’s Legend, a Norwegian Line cruiser or the Koningsdam, the latter would be my last choice (heck, I would even pick MSC before it, and that’s saying something!). For us, the Koningsdam is definitely not an option for future trips. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We have spent dozens of days cruising from Carnival to Regent. This was our first and last Holland America cruise. We chose this cruise as we wanted to tour northern Europe. We booked a so called suite which was about two thirds the ... Read More
We have spent dozens of days cruising from Carnival to Regent. This was our first and last Holland America cruise. We chose this cruise as we wanted to tour northern Europe. We booked a so called suite which was about two thirds the size of our previous suites on Regent and Princess. The layout was awful despite the smaller size. Crowded to walk into, the TV was across from the bed so if you wanted to watch the news one had to lay on the bed. Food service was okiay if your idea of a quiet meal is the Minnesota State Fair or Disney World at Christmas. Busboys running back and forth in the cafeteria or in the main dining room! Food was okay when you finally got out of the way of the crowd.If you wanted to have a quiet meal you needed to pay for the specialty restaurants. One even had a menu where you paid $30-$40 per meal as if you were in NYC! How disgusting. The library was a joke--a corner on Deck 11 with a few guide books and the warning that these were NOT to be removed. Bridge was popular on the ship but there was no space for those who wanted to play and the room was reserved for only two hours of play. A series of duplicate boards takes at least 3.5 hours to play. Our view is that this was our first and last HA cruise. We feel our $20 grand went up in smoke. The new ship is designed to wring the maximum cash out of the customer. It was nickel diming to the max. Lets hope this is not the future of cruising. By the way this feeling was shared by the majority of the passengers we talked to as well as the HA crew who couldn't be quoted by name but agreed with our concerns. To add insult to injury this ship allows smoking on the balconies which is a fire hazard and was particularly obnoxious as our next door cabin mates were chain smokers, making our balcony virtually unusable. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2016
Our 21 day cruise leaving in late August was chosen for the time of year and weather. School has started is most places so we only had 3 children that I saw on the ship. 2 infants and an 11 year old (who you could tell was absolutely bored ... Read More
Our 21 day cruise leaving in late August was chosen for the time of year and weather. School has started is most places so we only had 3 children that I saw on the ship. 2 infants and an 11 year old (who you could tell was absolutely bored beyond tears, we felt badly for him.) The big shock was the weather, we were expecting and hoping for cooler weather and when we landed in AMS it was over 90 degrees. We were hoping it would get cooler and it did, but the cruise ended up being much warmer than you would think for the time of year and where we were going! The Konnigsdam was a new ship and we were disappointed with no announcements or commentary in our room like on other ships. They usually have a volume button you can choose to have it ON or off. When you have a balcony and want to utilize it and enjoy the view AND hear the commentary that is being provided everywhere else on the ship, it is expected. NOT on the NEW Konnigsdam... what a waste, you have to go to a public area. Unless they have changed that feature, it is a BIG LET DOWN. You are cruising in beautiful fiords and cannot hear one thing about them on the balcony. Also quite a few of the public areas are small. You have to get there extremely early if you want a seat or to lean against a wall. I think they took away room from some areas for the new wine, food and some other things that only cater to 1/3 of the people. We thought the cooking venue space was a waste, its a fad. The movies out by the pool were fun with the wool blankets and the top closed. It is unfortunate that the hydro pools are now cut off from the general population and costs extra to use. It comes out to 15.00 a day Per Person. If you have money to burn, great, if not, it isn't worth it, but greatly missed. The ports we visited were amazing. We chose to get out of the cites and see the countryside. After you have visited the town hall and some Cathedrals in Europe, many are alike... of course there are exceptions. The food was great! We would eat in the dining room and the buffet. The staff was amazing. Overall a GREAT Cruise, we were just disappointed in the new ship. Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Just some background on my wife and myself. We have been on Princess (2) cruises, Oceania (4) cruises and Celebrity (6) cruises. We are active people in our early 60's. This cruise on Koningsdam was our first on HAL. Pros: 1. ... Read More
Just some background on my wife and myself. We have been on Princess (2) cruises, Oceania (4) cruises and Celebrity (6) cruises. We are active people in our early 60's. This cruise on Koningsdam was our first on HAL. Pros: 1. Nice to have a promenade deck to walk around on. 2. Very nice interior design. 3. Indonesian crew were very friendly and hard working. 4. Entertainment system in cabins were great, nice information and easy to use. 5. Entertainment in World Stage was top notch during the whole cruise. 6. Great experience for dinner in Culinary Arts Center. 7. Food in speciality restaurants was very good. Cons: 1. Service for speciality coffee in Explorations Cafe was slow, almost 30 minutes to get 1 iced coffee in mid morning. 2. Soundproofing between cabins was very poor, could easily hear kids and TV from adjacent cabins. We were in a Vista Suite. 3. Bed comfort was not good for being a new ship. Does not compare with Oceania or Celebirty. 4. Lido Market is too small to handle the passenger capacity. 5. Travel agent talks on Scotland and Iceland were given in Queens Lounge, as a result not enough seating for all who attended. World Stage was being used for rehearsals. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We chose this cruise for the itinerary, which on a back-to-back included both Norway's fjords and 3 ports in Iceland, and a stop in Edinburgh in August, enabling us to see the Military Tattoo. The fact that the Koningsdam was new in ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary, which on a back-to-back included both Norway's fjords and 3 ports in Iceland, and a stop in Edinburgh in August, enabling us to see the Military Tattoo. The fact that the Koningsdam was new in April was icing on the cake. The cruiseport in Amsterdam is very easy to reach from the airport. The train comes right into the air terminal, and the ride to Central Station in downtown Amsterdam takes about 20 minutes, for $12 US for two adults. Upon exiting Central Station on the back side, turn right and walk about 15-20 minutes to reach the shp. No $100 transfer needed from HAL! The itinerary did not disappoint, it was wonderful! Despite departing a day late, and missing a port, both due to a hurricane in the North Atlantic, we would highly recommend the ports we visited. The food was better than most ships offer in the main dining room, and the Pinnacle Grill and Tamarin were excellent as always. We enjoyed lunches in other venues as well. The service provided in all areas of the ship was as excellent as ever. The room (midlevel verandah VA cat.) was a bit tight on walking space compared to other ships. There was plenty of storage space to augment the hanging area of the closet. The reason for a rating of 3 stars lies solely with the abysmal lack of entertainment. The 3 cast shows were relatively good, there were a few enjoyable shows with individuals, and the string quintet was very good following the main show. However, beyond that, we along with many others were shocked at the absence of programs in the evening or during days at sea. After the 8:00 show (there are now 3 show on most nights in the main theatre) there was only one lounge area at a time offering music/entertainment. On days at sea I have always had too much I would like to do, and have hoped that talks or classes would be repeated. This is the only cruise on which I have watched movies in our room, and read through so many books! And regarding movies, outside by the pool is a poor substitute for the comfort of a true theatre as found on other ships. The one enrichment activity to be commended was the Windows 10 series of computer classes. The teacher was excellent, and there were a variety of topics covered with many classes available. On other cruises there have been so many interactive and fun game shows at night, enrichment lectures during the day, and musical offerings both from pros and for guest participants. This ship doesn't even have a true library, a complaint voiced by many. Two other points to make: Allowing art auctions to take over the best viewing area on the front of the ship, especially during scenic cruising, is unconscionable!! All passengers have paid for the use of that space (often called the Crow's Nest), and there is no reason why those focused on an art auction need to have prime window space! The auction took over this area on two occasions. This was totally unacceptable. There is a problem with communication about events and with providing important information to guests, and among staff as well it seemed. We only took one shore excursion through HAL due to the excessively high prices. That trip to the Tattoo in Edinburgh was priced SO much more than we could have paid independently, but if going on your own, the cruise line does not allow enough time to return to the ship before it departs. I don't believe this was by chance! There was considerable confusion when organizing guests for several buses before leaving for the show. Thankfully all went smoothly once we left for the city, and the Tattoo was wonderful. To explore Edinburgh independently, one can take the train in for about $10 RT per person, and an 18 minute ride. This does require walking up a rather steep hill first from the ship, and then a pleasant walk through woods to the station. We were very happy with places visited. The scenery was beautiful, people friendly, geography so unique, and excursions booked through independent vendors worked very well. One can only hope the management on this ship gets their act together in the entertainment and enrichment programs to make this the completely delightful journey it should be. For us now, other cruise lines will have priority. Read Less
50 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Very few positive comments. Staff was great and ship very pretty. Good night time entertainment and fabulous BB King Club. All downhill after that. Few activities; they count spa "seminars" as an activity yet I went to one ... Read More
Very few positive comments. Staff was great and ship very pretty. Good night time entertainment and fabulous BB King Club. All downhill after that. Few activities; they count spa "seminars" as an activity yet I went to one and it lasted 2 minutes and it was purely promotional. Not enough dance classes and don't just have them first thing in the morning when people are having breakfast! Don't just show movies by the pool at night when it's chilly outside and you're cruising Norway! Other cruise lines showed movies during the day inside, especially on sea days and even when we were in smaller ports. We were so bored we played a board game a lot. Ship not big enough to accommodate so many passengers. Art Auction director was totally rude and condescending to passengers and belittling to his staff. This was so uncomfortable. Buffet was set up so terribly. Had to wait at various stations just to get a roll or each aspect of our meal and then had to try and juggle plates to go to our seats; very stressful. We needed trays! Very little buffet food after 2 pm only rolls and salad. Little to eat after dinner hours in the buffet. Great hamburgers at a grill but often the wait was 20-30 minutes (ridiculous). Celebrity and Princess were so much better. Will never travel with Holland and telling all my friends to not use this cruise line. The company is out of touch with customer's needs. Customer service reps on ship could care less; they were totally blase about any complaints. Very disappointed. Never again!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2016
The only reason I'm giving it a 2 instead of a negative 200 is because there were some positives 1. The ship was docked for long periods of time and there were only 2 sea days which was great because the actual cruise line is so ... Read More
The only reason I'm giving it a 2 instead of a negative 200 is because there were some positives 1. The ship was docked for long periods of time and there were only 2 sea days which was great because the actual cruise line is so horrible it was nice to really enjoy being off the ship and in beautiful locations. 2. Some of the staff members were great 2 to be exact and although this is a negative review I will be giving my compliments directly to Holland America just because they were the only 2 staff members who made the trip decent. (I also thought the cruise photographers were really sweet) So onto the negatives... 1. The food. The food on Holland America is actually so disgusting I would ever call it inedible. I don't know if I should blame Americans for this or Holland Americas stereotypes about Americans for this one. They basically serve the standard hospital food quality menu/terrible sweet sixteen type food... (1 chicken, 1 steak, 1 fish, and a vegetarian entree which I'm positive no vegetarian in their right mind would create) There really is no other option other than American cuisine... they can respond back and say they have ethnic dishes but its really all just bland boring American food sometimes disguised as exotic dishes. I asked them why the food is so stereotypical of what Americans eat and why they don't have any variety and they said "well the crew gets to eat Indonesian food and Indian food and Chinese food" ok so they just assume most people on the ship have pallets that of an 8 year old child? It's literally like a kids menu.... and the food is just horrible!! It comes out cold its vile its sickening its overcooked or undercooked its just horrible. 2. THE FOOD. Do not waste your money on the specialty restaurants!!! they use all the same ingredients as the main dining room... it is a huge, disgusting scam....ever with their special le cirque dinner! which actually made me sick. Not only did it make me sick but the staff was horrible. They gave my mother a raw piece of meat that she ordered medium and the waiter said "well if you hold the steak up to different lighting it isn't as rare" ... ARE YOU SERIOUS??? what an idiot.... And the caesar salad is the exact same as in the main dining room so I said why does it cost extra to eat here if its the same exact salad... so the woman responds "well all caesar salads are the same everywhere you go"... Im wondering is everyone on Holland America just completely stupid? 3. They also made some other really unprofessional mix ups and mistakes that I can't even get into on cruise critic because I need to write an actual formal complaint with corporate about before saying anything on here but.... DO NOT waste your time on a Holland America cruise.... it is the worst cruise line ever... and I've been on over 25 cruises. oh wait just a tip: do not book their shore excursions they are hideously over priced and if you book your own excursions not with america you will save yourself over 75% of the cost. oh and definitely do not see the shows on board the entertainment is so bad. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We stayed in Amsterdam prior to the cruise. We did the hop-on, hop-off bus and the canal bout tour. The bus tour was very interesting. We did get off the bus and tour Gasson diamonds. There we were given a description of how the ... Read More
We stayed in Amsterdam prior to the cruise. We did the hop-on, hop-off bus and the canal bout tour. The bus tour was very interesting. We did get off the bus and tour Gasson diamonds. There we were given a description of how the diamonds are cut and how much is lost in the cutting. We watched diamond cutters shape diamonds and then were shown some diamonds and told of the different classifications, clarity, color, cut and carat. The canal tour was also very interesting. The tour took about an hour. We took the HAL transfer from Amsterdam to the ship. Ijmuiden is a 50 to 60-minute ride from the city. Boarding was very easy, check-in at the terminal and then go through customs and security. We arrived at the ship at 12:15 PM. We took a short tour of the ship and then unpacked our luggage. The ship left the dock around 5:00 PM. We were in the crow’s nest during the departure. The first 20 minutes of the trip was very calm and smooth. Once we got into open water we rocked and rolled for the remainder of the evening. Prinsendam: The ship is the smallest ship in the HAL line. Because of this, one gets to know the staff and fellow passengers. Most of the crew are friendly and helpful. The ship is old and is showing its age. The furnishing in our room are dated. Some of the drawers open and close smoothly and some have to be forced to fully close. The third day from the end of our trip, one drawer broke and couldn't be used. The water pressure in our room, 006, was low and at times, the shower just dribbled water. We were on the ship for 4 weeks and during that time, we had one unexpected water (toilet) outage and 3 planned outages. After each water outage, the pressure in our room was less than before the outage. Because the ship is small, the passageways are narrow. Also, to get from the front of the ship to the back on the 7th floor dining area, one has to pass through a main dining area to get to the reservation desk. To avoid this, we started going to the 8th floor and traveling to the back stairs to go down to the dining entrance. But this also has its challenges. If there is a performer in the Explorer’s lounge, then one has to pass in front of the performer to get to the other side. The lounge is too small to have a walkway that is not through the middle of the lounge. Food – the main ding room food was very good. On our first half of the trip, the service was prompt and accurate. For the first few days on the second part of our trip, the service was slow. This was due to an almost total change out of the dining staff. The service did improve after a few days. The Pinnacle Grill was excellent. Friendly and attentive staff, knowledgeable wine steward and great chef. The food was very tasty. We did not go to the Le Cirque night but friends of ours did go. They were not impressed with the venue. They did state the food was very good but not worth the extra cost. Remember the small ship comment, the Pinnacle is next to the dance floor and the noise from this venue was too loud so it is hard to enjoy a meal when the band is playing. We did try the Dive In next to the pool. The hamburgers and fries were very tasty. We would have liked the “Dive In” to stay open longer so we could get a burger for dinner if we wanted something other than the main dining room option or the Lido (more to follow on the Lido). I know we could go to the Lido and get a light dinner, but the food there was less than desirable. Lastly, the Lido. The food was not good. There are two sides to the Lido and since the ship is small, each side had different offerings. So, in order to find what was on the menu, you have to walk both sides first and then determine where to start. Once you get your food, you find some is not eatable. The staff at the Lido are not helpful and if you wanted something prepared at one of the specialty stations, it was difficult to find someone to help. The staff was also limited at the Lido. Clocks, they are few and far between. There is no ship clock in the staterooms and if you miss the time change announcement, then you could miss your tour or be late for your plans. That happened on our sea day back to Amsterdam. There was no major announcement only a small sentence in the daily activities paper. I missed that and then also missed some activities planned for the day. Shore excursions: Edinburgh Highlights & Castle • 8:45 AM – 1:30 PM Today we visited the Edinburgh Castle. We were able to witness the changing of the guards. Unfortunately, Cathy was not able to see due to all of the people in front of her. The tour of the castle was cut short due to the changing of the guards. We only had about an hour to see all of the highlights. The line to see the Scottish crown jewels was too long so we did not get to see those. The tour guide/company did not supply any hearing devices so it was very difficult to hear her talking about the different structures in the complex. (We had a large tour group, 48) After the castle tour, we drove around the city and she pointed out several highlights. We went past the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book. We also went past the childhood home of Robert Louis Stevenson. The Queen of England was in town to open an art gallery. We drove past the Queen’s residence, which is across the street from the Scottish parliament. After the city tour we returned to the ship. This tour would have been better if we could spend more time at the castle. The ship didn’t leave port until 6:00 PM, so there was plenty of time to expand the tour time. Suggestion would be to spend less time touring the city and more time at the castle and castle area. Upon returning, we found the toilets were not functioning. This was a reminder of our first cruise (the cruise from hell) where most everything on the ship didn’t function. The repairs were made prior to the ship’s departure so all is well. Loch Ness, Water Monsters & Highland Castles • 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM Today we toured two castles, one was in ruins and the other was well maintained. Our tour started at 9:30 AM and we returned to the ship around 5:30 PM. Our first stop was at the 14th-century Urquhart Castle, situated right on the edge of loch Ness. This is one of the most picturesque areas in Scotland. We saw the introductory film which gave the history of the castle and residents. After the film, we then walked through the ruins and saw the many areas of the castle. Sadly, the Loch Ness monster did not make an appearance. After, we departed for Kingsmills Hotel where we had a three course lunch, salad, chicken and vegetables and dessert. Lunch was very tasty. After lunch, we then drove to the Culloden Battlefield. This windswept moorland is the site of the last battle on British soil -- a turning point in Scottish history. This was a short stop for us to see the battlefield and hear of the history of the area. Our last stop was at Cawdor Castle -- a truly beautiful, traditional medieval (1454 A.D.) castle with exceptionally lovely gardens. This tour was well worth the money spent. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the entire area. SKARA BRAE & SKAILL HOUSE • 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM Today is a cold blustery day in Kirkwall. We toured the Scottish area known as Orkney. This is a series of over 70 islands just north of the Scottish mainland. They are situated at the meeting point of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. We started our tour driving through Kirkwall. This is the main settlement in Orkney. After the city tour, we traveled to “the Standing Stones of Stenness”. This was originally a circle of stones of perhaps 12 monoliths. There are only a few that remain standing. Next we went to “The Ring of Brodgar”. This is an ancient stone monolith site. The stone circle originally was comprised of 60 megaliths, only 27 remain today. We spent about 30 minutes at this site. Once we were all on the bus, we traveled to Skara Brae. This is a 5,000-year-old village. The village was discovered in 1850 after a violent storm. The site consists of at least 6 dwellings and a workshop. The houses are all joined by a street and buried in a mound of midden. We were able to spend a few hours at this site. We also toured Skaill House which is next to the Skara Brae site. The house dates from the 17th century. After touring the house, we all climbed back on the bus for the trip back to the ship. We arrived at the ship at about 12:15 PM. The tour was very interesting. There are other tour companies that offer the same tour for small private parties. I would recommend the smaller tour. Iconic Eilean Donan Castle & the West Highlands • 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM Another damp dreary day in Scotland. We tendered in to Portree this morning for our trip to Eilean Donan castle. The castle is located about 60 minutes north of port. The bus was full today with little room between the seat rows. Once at the castle, we were given an introductory talk about the history of the castle and the rebuilding of the castle that started in 1912. The rebuilding effort was completed in 1932. Lt. Col John MacRae-Gilstrap and his wife Ella MacRae restored the caste to have as a summer residence. It is still in use today by the family. It was rebuilt to the original style and architecture. We could not take any pictures in the castle. We toured several rooms. First was the “Billeting Room”, used for storage and as a billet for off-duty soldiers. On the next level up is the banquet hall. This large room contains many objects from the family and the past owners of the castle. Much of the furniture in the room is Chippendale or by Thomas Sheraton. The portraits on the walls depict members of the MacRae family. Other objects are from a collection of Jacobite items. We then toured the remainer of the castle on our own. We went upstairs to the bedrooms. We then descended to the kitchen. There we saw various pots and dishes used at the castle. There are many copper items both hanging from the ceiling and displayed on the shelves and walls. Next to the kitchen is the “scullery”. This area holds preserved goods and game birds. There was no refrigeration in the castle. We then went to the “hornwork” which is an area used to defend the castle. The hornwork enclosed the “great well” which supplied the water for the castle. After the castle tour we climbed back on the bus for the grueling one hour ride back to Portree. The tour guide was very good and kept us amused throughout our trip. This is the last port in Scotland, next we visit Ireland. Scotland is a very beautiful country. Lots of hills and mountains, rivers and waterfalls. Everything is very green, probably because it rains all of the time and never gets warm. A Stroll through Donegal Town • 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM We arrived on time after a rough night at sea. This is a small picturesque town on the west coast of Ireland. Breakfast was at the Pinnacle grill. The wait staff is now recognizing our normal order in the morning. We don’t have much planned for today. We will take a stroll through the town and learn of the history of the area. So, we went on the stroll and it was nothing that we expected. We thought we were going to stroll the town stopping at various points and the guide would explain the history and significance of the place. Unfortunately, it was raining when we arrived and we did not do any strolling. We did stand out in the cold rain trying to listen to the guide explain the significance of the ruined Abby. We then climbed back on the bus and were driven around the around the central square/circle several times. The guide pointed out some stores and sang “the bus goes around and round, the bus goes round and round” several times. Some were amused, others were not. The rain let up some and we were told to get off the bus and go to the Donegal castle. We were not given any other direction other than to be back on the bus at 4:45 to start our trip back to the ship. The guide at the castle did a wonderful job explaining the history of the castle and the various inhabitants. After the castle tour, I asked one of the HAL guides what was next and he stated he didn’t know. So we left and walked through the town on our own. Since it had stopped raining, we went back to the Abby and walked around the grounds and cemetery. Too bad there wasn’t a guide to tell us about the area.  Belfast; Best of Antrim Coast & Giant's Causeway • 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM Today was another typical Irish day. We ate breakfast at the Pinnacle, another good meal. After breakfast, we prepared for out tour. We boarded the bus a little before 9:00 AM for our travel north on the Antrim coast. This was a very scenic drive, too bad there weren’t many photo stop opportunities. Both the driver and the guide did try to show us the highlights and slow the bus when we passed a scenic area. We passed several areas with old houses, churches and a castle. At the end of the Antrim coast tour, we stopped at a hotel for lunch. We had roast beef, potatoes, carrots and a popover. All were very good. After lunch, we traveled to “Giant’s Causeway” which is a large rock formation of pillars. We spent about two and a half hours at the site. We captured several good pictures and walked the formation. Fortunately, neither of us fell or twisted our ankle. We saw a short informational movie on the area and visited the information center. After the causeway, we traveled back to Belfast. Once at Belfast, we did a short bus tour of the Titanic area. The guide explained what the city was doing to improve the area and showed us several sites that have been created to honor the passengers on the Titanic. The Titanic and its two sister ships were built in Belfast. Dublin's North Coast & Malahide Castle • 1:45 PM – 6:45 PM Today was beautiful day in Ireland. The sun was shining and the temperature was around 68◦ F. Cathy and I went to breakfast and then out on shore to have our picture taken. We like to have a picture of each port we visit. We spent the morning on board just laying around at the Crow’s Nest. This is located at the front of the ship on the top level, just a few steps from our cabin. After our rest, we departed on our tour. It was a drive to the Malahide Castle. This is a twelfth century castle built by the Talbot family. It has been in the Talbot family for over 800 years. In 1976, the city of Dublin purchased the grounds and castle from the family. The purchase price at the time was 650,000 Irish pounds. The purchase includes 78 acres of park and gardens as well as the castle. Rose Talbot was the last Talbot to live at the castle. She was the unmarried sister of Lord Milo Talbot. Lord Milo Talbot died in 1973 which led to the sale of the castle. Rose left Ireland in 1976 and traveled to another family residence in Tasmania, where she died in 2009. Rose was the last of the Talbot family. Okay, enough of the history. We toured several rooms of the castle. We went to the oak room; this room has intricacy carved walls which depict biblical scenes. Next we went to the small drawing room. This is on the ground floor of the west wing. This has an eighteenth century plaster ceiling. After that, we toured the large drawing room, which was used on formal occasions. In later years, it served as a family room. The room contains a fine woven Chinese carpet which was acquired in the 1950’s by Milo Talbot when he was a British Ambassador to Laos. The upstairs houses the family bedrooms. Each bedroom had a dressing room and storage area. The last room we toured was the great hall, which dates back to around 1400. This was the main common room of the castle. It was used as a dining room until 1976. There is a small balcony at one end of the room. We were told that musicians would entertain from that area during events. We also toured the walled gardens, which is a 25-acre site. Due to time, we were not able to see all of the gardens. After the castle and garden tour, we traveled along the coastal highway to Howth. A small town where we visited an Irish pub and enjoyed (at least I’m told) Irish coffee. We spent about 30 minutes at the pub. This gave us time to talk with others on the cruise and meet our fellow travelers. We then traveled back to the ship for an overnight stay at Dublin. Ballyknocken House & Glendalough • 8:45 AM – 2:15 PM Today we headed south of Dublin to County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland. We took a guided tour of the monastic ruins of Glendalough. Established by St Kevin in the 6th century, the ruined churches of the monastery are scattered around two lakes. The Irish translation of Glendalough is valley of two lakes. This is a very scenic area with many trees and hills. We passed through the “Gateway” to the main monastic city. After passing through the gates, we came upon graves of the local population. We walked to the “Cathedral” which is the largest building at the settlement. The building dates to 900 – 1000 A.D., with later additions dating to 1100 – 1200 A.D. Next to the cathedral is the “Priests’ House”. The name was given to the house because it was a burial place for priest of the area in the 19th century. It is assumed the original purpose of the building was a mortuary chapel where the remains of holy men would have been laid out for the faithful to pay their respects. Down the hill from the priest’s house is St. Kevin’s church. This church dates from the later 1100s A.D. The entire church is made of stone, including the roof. From here, we could see the “Round Tower”. This dates to the early 1100’s A.D. It features symmetrical features, tapering walls and a conical cap. The tower is also made entirely of stone. The tower was used as a bell tower and possibly for grain storage. The tower is just over 100 feet in height. The diameter at the base is 16 feet, tapering to 13.45 feet at the top. We viewed “St. Mary’s, Our Lady’s Church” from a distance. We did not travel to the church due to time considerations. We could have spent the rest of our time here and not travel to the Ballyknocken Country House farm, but alas, we had to get back on the bus and go. At the Ballyknocken Country House farm and cookery, we sat through a cooking demonstration of scones. We were told to go outside and walk the grounds while the scones were in the oven and once they were done, we would come back inside to sample the scones. What a disappointment! I guess they were surprised with the number of people on the tour. There were 34 of us and they had a set up for 20. Since we were some of the last to come back, we were part of the 14 people without a place to sit. Oh, but once they realized they didn’t have enough seating, they set up another table for 8. Well that still left 6 of us with nowhere to go. We decided to leave the building and walk the grounds since we didn’t want to have cold scones and nowhere to sit. I guess we still have the big “L” on our heads – “NO SCONES FOR YOU!” This part of the excursion was a total waste of our time. Did I tell you about our guide? She was a very bubbly person, very opinionated. She told of her country’s wows and how badly the vote for “Brexit” was. She went on and on about the recession of 2008. How her children and their children and so on would have to pay for the bad judgement of their elected officials. Exmoor National Park & Devonshire Cream Tea • 9:15 AM – 12:45 PM Today is a tender day. The sea is rough so the ride into shore was a little bouncy. It is a foggy damp day in England. Our 45-minute ride to Exmoor National Park was true, but what the information didn’t say was we entered the park after riding for 45 minutes then there was another hour or so of travel to get to Lynton, the small village where we stopped for “Devonshire Cream Tea”. The big “L” on our foreheads is still present. The PA system on the bus was not functioning so we spent 15 - 20 minutes sitting on the hot non-ventilated bus while they tried to resolve the problem. Once they determined they couldn’t fix the system, we started our journey. We reached the National Park but nothing was said by the guide. It was so foggy we couldn’t see anything more than about 50 feet from the bus. So, from the tour description; “Exmoor covers 267 square miles and is a scenic area of high rolling moorland and farmland. Dotted across this wild, natural place is a vibrant collection of varied and inspiring landscapes, as well as farmsteads, villages and hamlets where the people who shaped Exmoor have lived and worked for generations. The park lies on top of a huge sandstone plateau, split by deep combes (wooded valleys) creating some of England’s most dramatic scenery. The road leads across the center of the moor, where you’ll enjoy peaceful, open spaces, heather-clad vistas, ancient forests and sparkling streams. You may catch glimpses of the unique and rare breed of Exmoor pony or the large herds of red deer that roam freely here.” The tour company can’t control the weather so all we could do is sit on the bus through the winding up and down roads and hope we didn’t get car sick. Once at Lynton, we had tea or coffee and found out the “Devonshire Cream” is like butter and is spread on the scones. The tea was regular tea where one could add milk. The scones were good so that was a plus. We had about 15 minutes in town after tea to explore. We were able to make our way back to the bus in time to leave stopping at one shop to buy some mints. Next we traveled to the village of Combe Martin. We were given 30 minutes on our own to explore this picturesque village. We then got back on the bus and drove back to Ilfracombe. We were dropped off in town and told to walk back to the pier. This was unexpected bot to us and the tour guide. Our guide expected that we would be taken back to the pier. We did make it back and found our way to the tenders. The ride back to the ship was even worse than the morning ride, but we made it safely back. It would have been nice if the PA system had worked so that our guide could tell us about the area. Stonehenge & Salisbury • 10:00 AM – 6:30 PM Wow! The day started off perfect. Clear sunny skies and mild temperature. We arrived in port a few minutes early. This is a natural harbor that has been enhanced with stone walls around the entrance. The stone walls were constructed in the early 1800’s by French prisoners of war. There were two openings to the harbor, but during the first world war, a battleship was purposely sunk at one of the entrances to keep out the enemy. We started our day with a trip to Salisbury. This is a medieval city. We visited the 13th-century cathedral. It was originally a Catholic cathedral, but later when England established their own church, it was converted to a protestant church. The church spire is the tallest spire in England. Inside, our guide explained the various areas of the church. We found out through our guide that the church was built in a relatively short time, 38 years. Because of this, the architecture of the church is consistent throughout. After the church tour, we were taken to a room where one of only four remaining Magna Cartas reside. This is a large room with many displays of the history of the document. There is a small room where the document is displayed. After the tour through Salisbury, we continued on to Stonehenge. We spent about two hours at the site. The audio tour was excellent. Stonehenge is Europe's most famous prehistoric monument, built around 3000 B.C. There is a new visitor’s center with many artifacts from the area and from the area where the Anthropologists believe the people that built Stonehenge lived. After visiting Stonehenge, we traveled back to our ship. Our guide was very knowledgeable about all of the areas traveled today. Our bus driver lives in Portland so he was able to tell us about his town and he also took us around the town prior to going to the ship. He took us to the highest point on the island. That was an amazing view. We didn’t have enough time to stop and get off the bus, but it was well worth the trip. Best tour so far on out trip. Guernsey Island Drive • 9:45 AM – 12:45 PM Well, another wonderful day. Today we took a drive around the island. Our guide/bus driver was very good at pointing out the various features of the island. Our first stop was at a small chapel, St. Andrew’s. The chapel was undergoing renovations and we weren’t able to see the outside of the chapel. There was a small shop at the end of the lane where we were able to find a postcard with pictures of the chapel. After the chapel, we traveled west on the island to a small gold and silversmith shop. There were many items of interest, but we did not purchase anything today. The owner and silversmith talked to us about the various projects they have done and some of the repair jobs they get. A customer brought in a small silver pitcher for repairs. He stated it looked familiar, and when he looked at the hallmarks, he found he had made the piece about 30 years ago. They also made several pieces for Charles and Diane’s wedding. This allowed him to incorporate a “crown” hallmark. Today, he was making a silver Guernsey cow cream picture. He said it takes several weeks to complete one and he is barely able to keep up with demand. We traveled to the west coast of the island where we were able to get a drink and see the many sights alone the coast. On our drive back, the driver explained some of the history of the German occupation during WW2. The island was spared any allied invasion since it held no strategic value. The island was occupied by the German forces for five years. There are many bunkers around the island that were erected during that time period. There are also many 18th and 19th century bunkers on the island. After the tour, we found our way to the tender and traveled back to the ship. This was a good easy tour albeit the bus was not comfortable. Windmills & Edam • 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM Arrived in Amsterdam earlier than scheduled. It’s a beautiful day, sunny skies and warm temperature. We started our tour in Zaanse Schans, a small mill village. The village had shops, windmills and a cheese factory. First we visited the wooden/clog shoe factory. We were given a demonstration on how they are made. They showed us the handmade way, then the new way using machines. We were told the machines are very old but still used today to make the shoes. We then went to a working windmill. At this mill they ground limestone to a power and also chopped “dye” wood that would be used to dye fabric. We were able to see all of the working parts of the mill and go upstairs to view the wooden gears and other working parts. Next we visited a cheese shop, Catharina Hoeve. There, a woman explained how cheese is made. She gave out samples and invited us to visit the shop where we could sample all the different types of cheese they make. In this shop, they make Edam and Gouda cheese with different flavors. They also make sheep and goat cheese. We did break down and buy several different types of cheese and a cheese grater. Our next stop was at the village of Edam. Today, they had a festival and all of the farmers around the area were bringing their cheese into market. All of the cheese is brought to a central area where it is weighed and graded. Unfortunately, we only had a short amount of time in Edam and had to get back to the ship. Overall, a very nice tour and day. Our ship left port around 5:00 PM and we will be sailing for the next day. Tomorrow is a sea day so we will have time to rest and meet the newbies. Oslo Highlights & Viking Ships • 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM We arrived in Oslo around 9:00 A.M. and fully docked at 9:30 A.M. While traveling to Oslo, we were able to get some pictures of the Oslo fjord area in the morning. After breakfast we got on our tour bus and headed through the town. The guide was good at explaining the various highlights as we traveled to Vigeland Park. The park was built to exhibit the collection of sculptures by the artist Gustav Vigeland. The park depicts man’s life. He presents all of his sculptures(Man) in their daily life. Unfortunately, Gustav Vigeland died (1943) prior to the park’s completion (1947). All sculptures are nude except the one of the artist. After we departed the park, we drove to the Viking ship museum. There were several Viking ships on exhibit. The ships I the museum were part of the “Borne mound” excavation. This was found and excavated in 1852. The first ship was found in 1867 (Tune), the next in 1880 (Gokstad) and finally the last ship (Oseberg) in 1904. The ships found were used at sea and later pulled ashore to be used as burial ships. The deceased were laid in a tomb on the ship and given ample supplies of food and drink. Horses, dogs, peacocks and goshawks were also sacrificed to accompany the deceased. The ship and contents were covered with a large mound of soil and peat. The ships found were from a period around 900 A.D. Other items found in these mounds were weapons, jewelry, harness fittings of iron, kitchen utensils, and various other household items. We then traveled to the Kon Tiki museum. This museum houses the Kon Tiki -- Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa raft that became famous for its historic 101-day crossing of 4,970 miles from Peru to Raroia in Polynesia. Oslo, what a wonderful city. It is both modern and old. We found it to be a walkable city with many attractions near the port. We went past the opera house and its very modern architecture, it is a very unique building. This would be a city we would re-visit. Aalborg Highlights (Operated with Small Groups) • 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM Well, the day started off on a bad note, there was another water outage last night. We had to run the water for fifteen minutes in the morning in order to get clear water. Our shower was a trickle, so that should have let us know how the day was going to be. We had a tour for small groups. Wow, what a waste of money and time. The driver and guide took all ten of us in the un-air-conditioned van that had small seats and no ventilation. Both the driver and guide tried to fix the problem, but it was useless. So, we ventured on. Our first stop was at “the “historic allotment gardens” to learn about the popular cooperative style of gardening.” This was a stop at one small plot of land and we discussed the grain-based spirit Aquavit. The owner did not speak English and the guide only stated how nice everything looked. We did not learn about the popular cooperative style of gardening, it appeared we were only there so the owners could make some money. Next we traveled to the former Viking city and visited the museum of Lidholm Hoje. This is a site that was buried under sand for hundreds of years until it was discovered in the mid-19th century. Since we were with a small group led by an experienced guide, I expected the guide to tell us about the area. All she did was show us the stones and told us if they were in a triangle then a man was buried there and if it was a circle, then a woman was buried in that plot. We went to the museum next to experience the Viking city and what was found at the site. Once again, I was mistaken in that our guide let us loose to read the non-English descriptions to learn about the city. I did see her walking around the museum reading all of the descriptions and looking like a tourist. We then climbed back on the hot van to travel back to the city where our ship awaits. Our guide felt that since we had some extra time prior to the “all aboard” we could see more of the city. We drove around until we came to an old cathedral. She said we could get out and look at the church from the outside and then we would go back to the ship. Once again, I took her at her word and waited in the van, but no! She decided to take the group on a walk around the old town for the next 30 minutes. So I waited for the group to return so we could all go back to the ship. What a waste of time and money! This port should be eliminated from the itinerary. Most people got off the ship on their own and only stayed on shore for 30 to 60 minutes. There is not much to see here other than shops and restaurants. Copenhagen by Canal and Coach • 09:45 AM – 1:00 PM What a difference a day makes. A beautiful sunny day in Copenhagen. Our tour started with our group in a nice motor coach, air conditioned and plenty of room between the seats. Our guide was very good today and told us of the many sights to see while in Copenhagen. First we went to the “Little Mermaid” site. This statue was erected to honor Hans Christian Anderson’s fair-tail of the same name. Our guide told us of the plight of the statue, the head was chopped off and never found. The people of Copenhagen treated this like a murder. While the new statue was being created, a TV screen was put in its place. During the night hours, it only displayed the internet site that was used for the display. Our guide said it was a long six months until the new statue was completed. We continued our drive around the city with our guide pointing out the various buildings of interest. Our next stop was at St Alban’s Anglican Church. There we were able to see the church from the outside and also view Gerion Fountain, the largest fountain in Copenhagen. The fountain was completed in 1908 and depicts the ploughing scene from an old legend in Nordic mythology. We also went to Amalienborg, the Royal Palace site. There we saw the buildings that make up this site. There are four identical buildings, each serve a different purpose. One is the Queen’s palace, another is the guest palace, the third is the junior prince’s palace and the fourth is the Prince’s palace. None of the royals were in residence so the flags were not flying. In the center of the square is the equestrian statue of King Frederic V, which took 18 years to complete. We went across the street and looked at the new Opera house across the canal. This is a modern building which looks very nice. We continued our coach ride seeing many interesting buildings and churches. Borsen, the stock exchange has a very interesting spire. This is made up of four twisted dragon tails according to the king’s idea. After a short while, we boarded a canal boat to tour the city via canal. This was a 50 – 60-minute ride through the canals of Copenhagen. Our tour guide on the boat was very good pointing out the buildings, bridges and various highlights. We traveled through Holmen canal, Nyhavn canal, and the Langelinje, which leads out to the large harbor where our ship was docked. This tour was informative and charming. At the end of our canal tour, we boarded the coach and traveled back to our ship. Copenhagen is an attractive city with much to see and do. I wish we could have forgone our stop at Aalborg and spent two days here. Highlights of Tallinn (Operated with Small Groups) • 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM A beautiful day in Tallinn. Sunny skies with no clouds and mid 70’s. We started our tour around 9:30 this morning with 15 people. The guide was good and gave us a brief history lesson on Estonia. We went to several places around the city on the bus with a few stops for pictures and discussion. Our first stop was at the song festival grounds. Raul explained the history and the meaning of the festival held every 5 years. We then drove around the beach region of Pirita. This is the area where the yachting competition for the 1980 Olympic games were held. That was the year the US did not participate due to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. After that short visit, we traveled to Palace Square on Toompea Hill. The palace is where the Estonian Parliament resides. The castle is made up of several parts; the west wall and the tower are from the medieval times, the Government building is from the Czarist era (~1710) and the Riigikogu building and the courtyard were built in the 1920’s. We visited two churches; Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church, and Gothic Dome Church (St Mary's Cathedral). After that, we walked around Old Town and Raul explained the various buildings and some history of the area. Once we got to the center square, Raul told us of the area and then we had some free time to wander around and see the sites. We stopped in a café and had some tea and ice cream. We then boarded the bus for the return trip to the ship. This was a very nice tour and the guide, Raul is very good. We did leave one person behind, but that was planned so no harm. Great day, great tour, very nice city. Catherine Palace & Pavlovsk (Paul's Palace) • 8:15 AM – 4:00 PM Another beautiful day! Sunny skies and warm, mid 70’2 to lower 80’s. We started our day with a breakfast at the Lido restaurant. What another experience, not anything like the Pinnacle. People pushing and just plain rude. The food, it was eatable, that’s all I can say. We had to start early due to what we were told was a lengthy immigration process. Our tour was called around 7:30 and we left the ship to pass through immigration. Well, that was a breeze, all of the booths were open and no problems passing through. Got on the bus and started early due to the speed of immigration. To get to Catherine’s Palace, we first had to pass through St. Petersburg and then travel south. During our trip out of the city, our guide pointed out some of the buildings and significant places. We were about ten minutes from the palace when our bus broke down, well, after all we were in Russia. The driver and the guide were able to get us another bus that had just dropped off passengers at the palace so we were only delayed about 30 minutes. Catherine’s Palace has been mostly restored after the Germans destroyed it during WW2. They used the palace as a headquarters and when it appeared they were losing the war, they burned the building. Some of the antiques and paintings were saved prior to the German occupation, but most had to be re-constructed and re-produced from pictures. The amber panels from the amber room have never been found, what is there today is a reproduction. What a fantastic place, everything is stunning. We were able to see several rooms on the tour and we took many pictures. After visiting the inside, we then walked around the grounds to view the gardens. We then lunched at a restaurant a few miles away from Catherine’s Palace. What a wonderful, hot, cramped place. The food wasn’t bad, it just had no taste. We were served boiled chicken and rice with a scope of ice cream for dessert. We also had a warm bottle of water. After that treat, we traveled to Pavlovsk, Paul’s Palace. This was another example of a restored palace. All the rooms have been completed and they are spectacular. As with Catherine’s Palace, some of the art and antiques were saved from the Germans. The restored floors are the best. Very intricate patterns of wood inlay and marble. We were able to get back to the ship and clean up and have a quick dinner before our next adventure, the Hermitage. An Exclusive Evening at the Hermitage • 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM We spent two and a half hours at the Hermitage. That’s enough time to see a few rooms or just one room. The museum is quite large and contains hundreds of works of art. Fortunately for us, our guide was very knowledgeable. He was a young engineering student that also loved art. We could tell he has a great passion for a number of the paintings. We saw all of the masters. Since this was an exclusive evening at the Hermitage, the crowds were gone and we were able to see a lot of different paintings. We were surprised there was no air conditioning. The building was very hot and we were all happy to get done and back on the bus. This is a place where you could spend days or weeks and not have enough time to see all of the artwork. We did get a glimpse of some of the best art in the world. Imperial St Petersburg • 8:45 AM – 5:30 PM Another busy day! We started with breakfast at the Pinnacle, NOT, we had a quick breakfast at the Lido. Today the food was much worse. We tried the quick eggs and bacon station. The eggs were terrible and not eatable. So, off we went to the showroom to get our bus assignment for the day. First we drove to Peter the Great’s summer Palace at Peterhof. We walked through the rooms at a quick pace and not stopping to really look at the various artifacts, art and furnishings. No picture taking is allowed inside, so there was nothing to slow us down! The palace is spectacular. All gold leaf and finely appointed rooms. We then went outside to view the fountains. They are turned on at 11:00 AM and it is a big production. After viewing the main event, we strolled the grounds and gardens. At noon, we boarded a hydrofoil to travel back to St. Petersburg. That was a very nice ride and only took about 30 minutes. We were able to sit in the front of the boat so the view was very good. After arriving back at St. Petersburg, we boarded the bus and were taken to lunch. The restaurant was a boat on the river. We had beef stroganoff and mashed potatoes. We were given a half glass of warm water with no refills. The food was very good and the restaurant was very hot. After lunch, we were taken to a store to shop! I didn’t pay to be taken to shop and was very disappointed we all had to stop. After shopping, we then traveled to the Church of the Resurrection (Church of the Spilled Blood). The church is built on the grounds where Frederick the First was assonated. This is a very decorative church. We spent about 30 minutes at the church (remember the shopping trip). Our guide took us into the church and explained several of the areas and significance. She then showed us the exit and said we could have about 10 minutes on our own inside. Once we were done, then go outside and try and find the bus. This was not the first time she left us to find her. I guess we should be glad we didn’t lose anyone. We got back to the ship on time and got ready to sail away. A busy two days in St. Petersburg. We will be in Helsinki Finland tomorrow and have a short day. Helsinki Highlights • 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Helsinki, the capital of Finland is a charming city that has many avant-garde buildings. Both old and new are blended into the city architecture. Today we went on a short three-hour tour of Helsinki. The day was bright and not too hot, just right. Our first stop was at Senate Square. At the center of the square is a monument dedicated to Alexzander II of Russia. We found out the people of Finland still admire Alexander II because he was the one that guaranteed Finland their five rights which are; Peace, Science, Arts, Work and Justice. Around the square is the government building, the University, the University Library and the Lutheran Cathedral originally known as “the Nicholas Church”. After that, we drove around the city to our next destination, the “Church on the Rock”. On our way, we saw many parks and open areas for the residents to enjoy. The church was completed in the late 1960’s. It is an underground church carved out of the large granite rock on which it is built. It is built in the round and has a huge dome formed by strips of copper and glazed concrete pillars. We stopped there and purchased some souvenirs at a small shop near the church. We then drove past the Olympic Quarter and the main railway station, Central Station. The entrance of the railway station is highlighted by four monumental torch bearers. There is a large clock tower next to the station. At the Olympic Quarter, we saw the stadium and the swimming stadium. The Olympics were originally scheduled to be held in 1940, but due to the war, they were postponed until 1952. Our final stop was at a park to view a monument to Jean Sibelius, a Finnish composer. The monument is formed from more than five hundred stainless steel tubes brought together to resemble a giant organ. We were told that when this was revealed, most Finnish did not appreciate the work. We thought is was very nice and enjoyed the stop. Historic Stockholm, Sigtuna & the Vasa Museum • 8:45 AM – 4:00 PM We arrived on schedule. Traveling through Archipelago was nice, but since we didn’t get up early, we were unable to see much prior to docking. We will have to view Archipelago once we depart. Our tour took us to several places and stops in Stockholm. Our first stop was at the top of a hill with a vantage point that enabled us to see the city. From here we got a great view of the city and all of its diversity. We saw the amusement park, old town, government buildings, the Vasa museum and churches. Next we stopped at the Swedish Palace and walked around Old Town. We went to the main square where we saw city hall and old traditional stone houses. We viewed the Storkyrkan, a Gothic Cathedral built in the 12th century. We also saw the Nobel Museum (from the outside). We next went to the Vasa Museum. This houses a galleon that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. When the ship was launched, all of its canon doors were open and because the ship was top heavy, water rushed in and the ship sank just 1.300 meters from the launch site. Because the water in this area in not very salty, the ship was preserved to almost original. This was the largest warship built in Sweden at the time. The ship had ten sails and carried 64 cannons. It was highly decorated with carved sculptures and brightly painted features. The stern of the ship has a highly carved coat of arms and figureheads. Numerous objects were recovered when the ship was salvaged. This was a very interesting stop and we had enough time to see most of the exhibits. We traveled to Sigtuna for lunch and a walk around the town. We had lunch at a small hotel and conference center. We had salad, chicken and vegetables. For dessert, we had chocolate cake. Lunch was very good and we had a good time talking with fellow travelers. After lunch, we walked through Sigtuna. This is the oldest town in Sweden. Our first stop was at St. Olaf’s’ ruin. This was the first church built in Sigtuna. Across the way stands the new church, built about one hundred years after the first church. We were able to go inside the working church. We then went on a short tour of the city and were given 30 minutes of free time to wander and see the sights. Most of us took all of 15 minutes and returned to the bus. Not much to see in this small town. We departed Stockholm at 6:00 PM. We were able to view the Archipelago area when we sailed away. This is an area made up of 24,000 islands. Many of the islands are inhabited and most are full of trees. Most of the houses on the islands are summer homes. Some of the islands have hotels and welcome guests for the summer. There is an art gallery and an old fort on the islands. Best of Berlin by Motor Coach • 6:30 AM – 7:30 PM Our last shore excursion. We traveled to Berlin today. It was a 3-hour bus trip into the city. The country side was nice and there was some birds and deer roaming the pastures. Germany has a lot of wheat and barley fields. There were many species of trees along the road and some rolling hills. Our bus guide, Dorothy was very good, she talked for a little while and explained the day. She discussed the country and then let us settle in for the long ride. We had a breakfast snack on the bus that was a butter stuffed pretzel. Once we arrived in Berlin, we picked up the city guide, Stephanie. We traveled through the city to our first stop, the Allied Museum. The Museum is normally closed on Monday, but they opened it for our tour. Our bus was the only visitors at the museum during the time we were there. The museum was established on June 27th 1998, the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. It contains thousands of objects, documents and photographs. We saw a British plane used during the airlift, the original “Checkpoint Charlie” structure, the library and the movie theater. They have made the library and the theater into small museums displaying articles from the time of occupation. In the library, we saw a piece of the tunnel the CIA had built into Soviet territory. Our next stop was at the Berlin wall. This is an impressive outdoor museum. Next to the wall is the foundation of the Gestapo headquarters. The building was built in 1901 to 1905 to house a school of industrial arts and crafts. The German Secret State Police took over the building in 1933 and resided there until 1945. In 1933, the Gestapo set up a “house prison” for Germans that did not conform to the Nazi regime. The building was bombed several times during the war but survived. In 1953-1954, the building was partially demolished and the remainder was blown up in 1956. We then continued to another photo stop at the location of the original “Checkpoint Charlie”. This has become a very commercial area with “actors” dressed as American soldiers that will for a fee, allow you to pose with them for a picture opportunity. I felt they disgraced our service men and woman. Lunch was on the agenda next. We stopped at a nice restaurant in central Berlin. There was so much food! We had sliced pork and gravy, meatballs, sausage with sauerkraut, different types of potato and assorted vegetables. The best lunch we have had on this trip, including all the lunches on the ship. We spent a little over an hour at lunch. We continued to travel and see the city highlights. Our next stop was at the Brandenburg Gate. The gate was built in 1791 according to architectural plans by Carl Gotthard Langhans. This was only a photo stop. In this area are the French and American Embassies. This was only a short photo stop, but we had enough time to take pictures and walk around the area. We made another quick stop at the Reichstag. This was built in 1884 – 1894 by plans from architect Paul Wallot in the Italian renaissance style. The center glass dome is spectacular. We also had a short stop at the Victory Column. The “Golden Else” sits atop of the column. We had a short shopping stop and then went to our rendezvous point to drop off Stephanie and prepare for our journey back to the ship. What a great country and tour. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
First time on Holland America! We chose this cruise because of the iteinary. The weather was nice except for a couple of days. Seas were very calm. Husband got food poisoning from lido on second day. I informed front desk and a ... Read More
First time on Holland America! We chose this cruise because of the iteinary. The weather was nice except for a couple of days. Seas were very calm. Husband got food poisoning from lido on second day. I informed front desk and a report was taken No one ever contacted us after that. Had a big problem with SBP promo. Would not honor until my agent got involved. HA said an error had been made. I had final invoice but they still would not honor agreement. The ships layout seemed closed in, and most of the bars seemed empty except for the crows nest. Pros: Friendly crew Above average food Great information about ports Cons: Menu description did not match what was served Constant maintenance noise (hard to find a quite place to read) Front desk cooperation with promo problem Lack of day activities and evening entertainment Smell of cigarette smoke on balcony Will never consider H A again! Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
My wife and I booked an accessible stateroom at the new Koningsdam, hoping to have a beautiful holiday. At the end however, this was our worst experience ever! We live in Amsterdam and cruised before with Celebrity. We had 2 wonderful ... Read More
My wife and I booked an accessible stateroom at the new Koningsdam, hoping to have a beautiful holiday. At the end however, this was our worst experience ever! We live in Amsterdam and cruised before with Celebrity. We had 2 wonderful cruises and from day one we felt at home at their ship. Not at the Koningsdam however!! It started with the embarkation. We had asked for wheelchair assistance for my wife, but it was not available at first. When we got a chair, the poor guy didn’t know what to do. The staff at the terminal also didn’t kwon how to treat us. They finally gave us a boarding number, but that proved to be the wrong one. Since we’ve been there before, we let our assistant just push us to the check in line where we saw that a line for handicapped guest was available. From that moment we got some progress, but it took us almost one and a half hour to get on board. Once in our stateroom we discovered that there was no real furniture placed in the room, no decent table to dine on and only two small office chairs to sit on. No couch, we could only sit on those small chairs or lie in bed. If we wanted in room dining, we would have to dine with a plate on our knees! They forgot to order them for the accessible rooms! We were promised a wheelchair to be ready in the stateroom, but it was not there! When we asked about it, the Guest relations officer wanted me to produce the email. Since I did not had it with me, his attitude was: no email, no wheelchair! When asked about the furniture, the officer said to my wife that the cabins were designed “as is” and that’s what we’ve got. The room was compliant with US Medical standards so, while lifting his arms, he said: “What would you like me to do?” When my wife suggested some better furniture, the answer was: “Not possible!” In previous reviews about the Koningsdam, we’ve read about the cramp feeling on board the ship. We can only confirm that. Passages were narrow and trying to dine at the Lido with a wheelchair was almost impossible. There were no trays, but I managed to get one and defended it the whole trip! They kept trying to take it from me! Dining in the Main dining room was also almost impossible. Arranging a table for two was not possible. Booked solid for the complete journey!? It was suggested by fellow passengers that the Maître ‘D was tipped off by other guests how knew the drill. Shore excursions are extremely expensive and over the hole ship lies a feeling of trying to squeeze more money out of the guests. My Wife went to the spa for some small treatments, for example hair washing and some eye lashes. The attendant offered to do her makeup, but at the end charged her $ 75,00 for it! And don’t forget the mandatory 15% service charge on top! My wife went with appointments for other spa treatments worth $ 500,00 without realizing it. We cancelled them! Overall, we did not felt at home at this ship. When we travelled onboard the Celebrity Constellation, we really felt as if we were real guests. If you asked someone to jump, they would almost say: How high? On the Koningsdam they turned their eyes to the ceiling and sure didn’t want to jump! Finally our trip ended with disaster! In Stavanger, our last stop before going home, my wife fell and broke her upper leg. Since she also has a hip prosthesis, this meant going to a hospital. My wife was transported to the medical ward, and I was literally thrown from board with my suitcases. Four employees stuffed everything in the suitcases and before I knew it I sat in a car with the harbor representative on my way to Stavanger Hospital. We stayed 10 days in Stavanger before my wife was fit enough to fly home again. Although we’ve been called almost every day by a representative, no real attention anymore from HAL. Figures, we were a liability now! HAL NEVER AGAIN! Read Less
53 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
BACKGROUND: We are frequent, experienced travelers and have taken over 25 cruises on at least nine different lines. We booked the 20 day Christening Cruise of the Koningsdam (actually 13 day Christening and 7 day Norway) for the ... Read More
BACKGROUND: We are frequent, experienced travelers and have taken over 25 cruises on at least nine different lines. We booked the 20 day Christening Cruise of the Koningsdam (actually 13 day Christening and 7 day Norway) for the off-the-beaten-path ports and the chance to sail on a new ship. We had previously taken one HAL cruise in 2005. SHIP LAYOUT: There are parts of the Koningsdam that are lovely and much of the music-related art is interesting and unique (even though art work depicting David Bowie and the Sex Pistol’s Sid Vicious seem ironic on a line whose passenger base averages in their 70s). All of the public space is on Decks 2 and 3 and Deck 9 and above so it is not a difficult ship to find your way around. For all its updated glittery spaces, the ship feels dark and a bit claustrophobic. Unfortunately, the Koningsdam does not hold crowds well and can feel quite crowded with numerous difficult traffic patterns. For example, on Deck 10 overlooking the pool, one must wind a narrow path (barely 2 feet clearance) past immovable hard-as-rocks white couches and deck chairs/beds with curtains dangling between. There are few places to really relax on this ship (especially if you want to be sheltered from sun or wind). The deck chairs around the pool are inexplicably jammed together (about 5 inches apart) and many of the chairs throughout the ship’s lounges are designed very low and with no or very low armrests. Even most of the chairs in the Crow’s Nest were uncomfortable, contrary to our one previous experience on HAL. One thing you will find aplenty are bars including one in the Lido Buffet; from one, from one you are always in sight of the next one. There are dedicated wine blending and whiskey tasting areas which appeared to be underutilized. FOOD & DINING OUTLETS: (See below for food outlet related service.) The majority of the food on the Koningsdam is mediocre and, as expected, tastes mass-market produced. It is exactly what you would expect when serving 2,500 people. The food in the Dining Room is usually a low-grade cut of meat or poultry with a starch and virtually no vegetables. Everything is extremely salty—you can feel your blood pressure rising with each spoon of soup. Desserts are dry—we stuck to the ice cream sundaes. Every night, we had to ask for an extra bowl of vegetables. The gala night offerings were better with a quality filet and lobster tail available. The Lido Buffet is an unequivocal disaster. Although the food is fine by mass-market standards, the atmosphere is chaos—there are no trays so one must run from station to station and stand in queues up to 10 deep trying to find a complete meal while juggling plates. The stations are illogically set up so all your food is cold by the time you find or return to a table with the added problem of so many tables being cleared and reset so slowly. The Dive-In pool grill is standard hot dogs and hamburgers with good crispy fries. The NY Deli and Pizza outlet by the pool is a good option for a quick breakfast but serving only two bagel sandwiches and cold cereal (still vastly preferable to the chaos of the Lido). The Deli also serves good sandwiches and OK pizza. We wanted to try the Dutch Café but the line was always really long or they were out of what we wanted. We experienced two up-charge specialty restaurants: the Pinnacle Grill and the Culinary Arts Center. The Pinnacle Grill filet was good quality and we liked the idea of numerous sides (starches and vegetables) to choose from; it is a shame that this food is considered ‘premium and extra cost’ when just a few years ago, this was the level of cruise ship food in the dining room. The Culinary Arts Center was our best food experience by far and the only one that met our standards for food and service on the Koningsdam. The top-notch food was freshly prepared in the open kitchen; if anything, there was a bit too much food served (a cocktail and wine were included in the upcharge). SERVICE: Based on our 30 years of traveling at all price points, the service and attitude of ALL the staff on the Koningsdam were the WORST we’ve ever experienced and an all time low! Multiple times a day for 20 days, we had experiences of appalling and unacceptable attitudes and service. HAL should be ASHAMED of the Koningsdam’s lack of customer service! The one exception was our room attendants who were always pleasant, efficient and responsive. The only good dining service we received was at the Culinary Arts Center. The laundry is prompt. However, the rest of the staff (and their processes) are inefficient, indifferent, unhygienic, unresponsive and especially RUDE--always quick to roll eyes at requests and argue. This includes Guest Services and especially the majority of staff associated with any food-related outlet. I left three messages to speak to the Hotel manager about our terrible experiences and never heard a word from him. Even the cruise director is rarely seen and just ignores passengers in passing. Obviously, this lack of customer service is an attitude set from the top down. Examples of poor service we experienced are extremely numerous but here are a few: --The public restrooms are woefully unattended; one evening I had to report to Guest Services the disgusting condition of a restroom with dirty tissues and towels all over the floor, no toilet paper and dirty sinks; --When asked a question about our 7 day Norway segment, a Guest Services employee raised her voice and kept arguing that the next segment was 14 days and I was wrong; after she finally checked and answered my question, where was no apology for her tone and behavior; --The Dining Room ‘Anytime’ seating was total chaos with waits well over an hour some evenings, even when large numbers of tables were empty; the Ocean Bar and nearby corridor where they send people to wait with beepers was standing room only; --Was served raw Crème Brule in the dining room (yes, burnt sugar on top of a raw egg); --Was offered a sandwich at the NY Deli that they said was “returned by a lady who didn’t want it;” --Had an over three-hour dinner in the Dining Room as the server would just disappear as we sat with dirty dishes in front of us for 45 minutes between each course; --Staff would consistently roll their eyes if we requested anything ‘extra’ like additional vegetables or more potato chips; --Requesting a table for four at Tea, the manager actually yelled at us that we needed to sit separately and when we insisted on sitting at an empty table for four, he punished us by not serving us for 15 minutes then came back in 5 minutes to snatch away the tea things while we were still eating; --I suggested to the Lido manager that it would be great to have ice cream and cookies available in the Lido in the afternoon; he very aggressively told me that I should go spend money at the gelato stand; --And on, and on and on… Yes, the staff was that rude. In fact, the abominable service was the talk of many passengers even ones we met on excursions; some HAL loyalists said they would never sail the line again. Obviously, this is a company that does NOT have a culture of customer service and does not know how to train and/or motivate staff. ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: The Koningsdam’s World Stage is a wonderful venue. Even with three shows a night, be aware that it fills up quickly. Unfortunately, in 20 days, it was used to good effect only a handful of times. Their ‘Frozen Planet’ production by the BBC with live music by the ship’s orchestra is excellent! Their production shows are good quality even if the choreography is a bit frantic and amateurish. The individual entertainers are pretty much standard mass-market cruise types. The exception was a magic act that was so bad, the audience was streaming out and those that remained offered a few pity claps. The Lincoln Center Chamber ensemble is excellent; as is the BB King group—but unfortunately they are so loud for the venue, it’s impossible to enjoy them for more than a song or two. In the dueling piano lounge, the pianists are good but their voices are weak and repertoire limited. The Casino is fairly large, allows smoking and appears to be underutilized. Second run movies are shown on a large screen on the pool deck on some evenings (there is no movie theater). Unfortunately, the timing isn't great; one show starts at 7 pm and interferes with dinner and a second show is at 10 pm which runs too late for early touring on a port intensive itinerary. The at-sea daytime activities were a huge disappointment, especially compared to other lines. There was daily trivia but were very few enrichment lectures; almost all of the activities were revenue generators like bingo, paid fitness classes, paid cooking demonstrations, etc. Overall, with virtually no comfortable places to relax and read, no daytime movies and no interesting activities, at-sea days were boring. ITINERARY & CHRISTENING: The 13 day Christening segment was a ‘one off’ itinerary that repositioned the ship from Italy where it was built to Amsterdam, which will be its homeport. Having traveled extensively in Europe, the ports on this segment allowed us to tour some interesting places we had not visited before such as Seville (from Cadiz) and Santiago Del Compestelo (from Vigo), Spain and Bayeux (from Cherbourg), France. We enjoyed returning to Oslo on the 7 day Norway segment and visiting Flam and Stavenger for the first time; however, the stop at Kristiansand was uninteresting. For exploring the ports, we toured several DIY, took a few private tours, and used a few of the ship’s excursions. It was interesting to witness a portion of the ship’s Christening ceremony by the Queen of the Netherlands (passengers had to choose which part of the ceremony they would attend). However, the whole occasion was incredibly elitist. It was obvious that the Carnival/HAL corporate representatives that came aboard for two days received vastly better service than the paying passengers. PASSENGERS: Perhaps because of the Christening, but the vast majority of the passengers on the Koningsdam appeared to be older seniors, age 70 and above. Many people we met were staunch HAL loyalists who rarely traveled any other way. During the 13 day Christening segment, there were passengers from America, Canada, Australia, UK and a large contingent from the Netherlands. On the 7 day Norway segment, the average age dropped a bit (we actually saw a few children) and the number of Dutch passengers increased and seemed to become the majority. SUMMARY: Based on our 35 years travel experience, after 20 days on the Koningsdam, we will never ail this ship or HAL again. In today’s competitive mass-market cruise industry, there are any number of better alternatives if value for your vacation dollar is a priority and you have standards for the service and food you will accept. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
Service was par for the course for HAL; gracious and sincere. This is a ship of a new and different kind for HAL. I missed the promenade with chairs and open, friendly walkways, my wife doesn't spend much time out on the promenade, ... Read More
Service was par for the course for HAL; gracious and sincere. This is a ship of a new and different kind for HAL. I missed the promenade with chairs and open, friendly walkways, my wife doesn't spend much time out on the promenade, so she didn't feel deprived. The fitness center is first-rate with lots of treadmill machines (maybe too many) and perhaps a bit shy on weight machines. We loved, loved, loved the new New York Deli with its pizza and sandwiches all cheerfully prepared for you at order time. Never had much of a wait here. Dive In was as expected, making the best in hamburgers and hotdogs. Sometimes a wait but always worth it. The Grand Dutch Cafe was also a surprising hit with us. Have the split pea soup but be careful not to over order with it; it is indeed a meal in itself. Sandwiches were also made at order time and were excellent. Our first time on a ship with Tamarind and again, lovely service and excellent food along with a very nice view at the top of the ship. While we found the main dining room to be very lovely and elegant I also found myself feeling like Jonah in the whale with the large "ribcage" like appearance. It was also very noisy in this venue as if there where no sound absorbent material used in the room. Food was good here but service needed some polish. We found a home at the bar in Billboard Onboard. Not for the entertainment; we found that to be amateurish at best but for the service we received from the bar staff. They were first-rate. Also, we loved going to the Queen's Lounge in the evening for a round or two of BB King's Blues Band. What a show! See my cabin review below. We never felt lost or crowded, even in the much maligned Lido. Those chairs there are heavy though! Just pick your times carefully. I never had a problem finding the same seat each morning at roughly 7:30am. And, there's always room out the back outside. We will be back on board this lovely ship soon! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2016
We were very fortunate to sail on the m.s. Koningsdam's Christening Cruise. She's the largest ship Holland America Line currently has (sister ship, Nieuw Statendam, is being built.) Décor is delightful, as she is ... Read More
We were very fortunate to sail on the m.s. Koningsdam's Christening Cruise. She's the largest ship Holland America Line currently has (sister ship, Nieuw Statendam, is being built.) Décor is delightful, as she is "brightened" with much lighter colors than existing and past HAL ships. Service was in a class by itself....the HAL class. We return to this line mostly because of the outstanding service level. The Koningsdam is a "music ship." That means music venues are everywhere. While we enjoyed every venue, there is one common complaint we feel we need to make. For goodness sake...turn the volume down!!! For example, in the BBKing lounge (a 2-story, smallish lounge), the volume was loud on deck 2, but up on deck 3, it was intolerable! On Deck 3, passengers have to walk by the lounge to travel from forward to aft of the ship...it is the only inside walkway. People were walking by the BBKing lounge holding their hands against their ears! Many people started to go outside to walk the outer deck rather than pass by the BBKing at that volume! HAL...get a clue! The open concept of the ship makes it feel spacious...which it is. What they did not engineer correctly was the noise flow-through from one place to another. You could not hold a conversation in the shop on the 3rd level when the group was playing (and they were very good!) because of the noise. Sure hope HAL puts some better engineering on this topic of noise into the Nieuw Statendam. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
I dont want to waste more time on HAL but I urge you to read the bad reviews about HAL, its all true and then some. The highlight was daily fire drills at 7:00am (Yes daily, every single day of the trip. You will go mad starting the ... Read More
I dont want to waste more time on HAL but I urge you to read the bad reviews about HAL, its all true and then some. The highlight was daily fire drills at 7:00am (Yes daily, every single day of the trip. You will go mad starting the day with the firealarm going off in your cabine). Dont think about complaining, you just get the "Thank you for bringing this to our attention but its necessary for your safety" So while you wont have fun on the Eurodam you will be extra extra "safe"...except for the hearing damage a 140dB loud bieping does to you every morning. Also a crew member unlocked the cabin door at night and entered while we slept, unrelated to that several items were stolen and we were charged for a lot of stuff we didnt buy. . . . . . . . but as I said I am done with these people and urge you to stay away from Holland A. Line! PS: they also Spam your email account, I asked them to stop which is answered with a "no-reply" message..smart Dining was OK, activities on board a bit boring if you are under 65, service was less the cunard ect., the cabin was terribly cold..broken airco regulator, entertainment was like i said above more for +65, the staff was on edge and was missing the extreme friendliness we experienced with other cruise-lines Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
This was our first cruise. We chose HAL because without exception, everyone we know who has cruised has raved about it. So we booked a back-to-back: transatlantic from Ft. Laud to the Azores and up the coast of Europe to Copenhagen for ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We chose HAL because without exception, everyone we know who has cruised has raved about it. So we booked a back-to-back: transatlantic from Ft. Laud to the Azores and up the coast of Europe to Copenhagen for 17 days, and a follow-up Baltic 12-day circle back to Copenhagen. The Good: Our cabin, a verandah on the Verandah Deck, was comfortable if small. But we didn't spend much time in it. We overlooked the tops of the life vessels but had unobstructed ocean views. Our cabin stewards were delightful and we LOVED the towel animals they made each night (yes, it's SOP on a cruise but we loved them anyway.) Our bathroom was small, of course, but had plenty of storage, including a shelf under the vanity and a roomy cabinet. The closets were pretty big for a small cabin. Our suitcases fit under the bed, barely. The food was plentiful and very good. We enjoyed open seating so sat with new people every night, which was interesting. The Pinnacle service was excellent and we loved the menu and preparations. All the dining-room staff at the Lido and Pinnacle were outstanding. We also enjoyed the specialty meals on the pool deck, with the oompah band and German dishes when we were in Warnemunde. We enjoyed trying out the different bars - I think there were 11 of them, each different in character. We went to one main stage show and didn't enjoy it that much, but we loved the piano bar where a young woman played and sang and sort of became everyone's granddaughter. Her replacement for the Baltic leg was a slicker, more polished performer with a Vegas-style line of patter and we didn't enjoy him as much. The piano-violin duos who played every evening were terrific. But by far the best entertainment was the BB King Blues Band in the BB King Room. They were fabulous musicians who put on a wonderful show every night that was sadly under-attended. But we were there almost every night. We enjoyed most of the lectures. One lecturer, a retired captain, was very entertaining and filled with tons of fascinating information. The other one was more professorial and managed to make his fascinating subjects a little windy and boring, but the information was great. We spent a lot of time in the Crow's Nest, reading and chatting. I worked my way through the library and enjoyed the wonderful views. Happy hour there was great. Everything was very clean and organized. Disembarkation for shore tours was very organized, the lifeboat drills were accomplished fast and in a somewhat military manner, with dire threats of being left behind if we missed them, and no matter when we were out and about, there would be someone polishing the brass, vacuuming, or washing windows. The Not-so-good: One suitcase was waiting for us when we reached our cabin. Two hours later, I called to ask about it and was told that the wine bottle in it would be confiscated because we couldn't bring it aboard, which directly contradicted what we'd been told before we booked. (We'd been told we could board with two bottles apiece.) I told them that we absolutely needed that suitcase immediately, WITH the wine, and a few minutes later there it was, wine bottle included. Happy hour is only observed in two of the bars, so if you were in the wrong place, you were out of luck. Not sure why they don't all have it. We didn't buy a drink package because we were quoted something like $1580 each for our 29-day cruise, with no ability to treat someone to a drink - we would have had to drink all that ourselves! So we paid as we went. Most drinks are pretty reasonably priced. Our verandah was a few feet shorter than others in that class, because we were just above the lifeboats. The balconies above us were at least two or three feet deeper. It turned out not to be an issue because the weather was chilly enough that we didn't use it much, but if that's important, don't book a Verandah cabin on Deck 5, the Verandah Deck. We kept getting lost because the passageways all look the same. It would be helpful if the doorways to the passageways were painted different but consistent colors - all port aft on each deck red, all port forward on each deck blue, and so on. Because some of the elevator banks look the same, we found ourselves wandering in circles. Likewise, the brass plaques at the elevators that show a cutaway of the ship with the decks labeled weren't oriented the way you were standing when you looked at them. So if you couldn't tell which way was forward and which was aft, they weren't much help. We'd looked forward to the behind-the-scenes tour but bagged it when we learned that it cost $150 per person, more than some of our shore excursions. Can't imagine how they justify that. There are no trays in the MDR. We understand the reason for that - it really cuts back on the massive food waste - but it's hard to juggle a full meal while searching for a table, especially in choppy seas. We encountered ONE 16-year-old girl on the 17-day leg of our trip. Everyone else was an older adult, sometimes significantly older. That poor girl was bored out of her skull. There were only four younger children on that leg, although some crew families came aboard for the Baltic leg so there were more kids around. As comfortable as this line is for older travelers, I'd think long and hard before bringing anyone under age 20 along. And that's pushing it. The one nightclubby venue was rumored to be closing before the end of the year. Overall, we enjoyed our first cruising experience. There were no surprises - we knew about the older crowd, but that's us! We've booked a second cruise on HAL for next spring. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2015
The crew may have been the best I've ever had. Service was excellent. The ship is in fine shape, and the entertainment in the bars was excellent, except for the rediculously loud volume from the BB King Blues Band. I left the ... Read More
The crew may have been the best I've ever had. Service was excellent. The ship is in fine shape, and the entertainment in the bars was excellent, except for the rediculously loud volume from the BB King Blues Band. I left the crowsnest when they came on. Not many folks there as a rule, probably due to the loudness. The other bar entertainers were all very good. I don't usually go to the theater shows, but the two I went to were quite decent. I only did one HAL excursion and it was very good. I was familiar with most of the ports so mainly did my own visiting. If there was one thing to detract from the general level of excellence it was the visit to Casablanca. I have no idea why cruise lines go there - the pollution is horrible, as is the traffic and there's really nothing to do - it's a hole. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
The most predominate issue to think about is that the passenger average age is more than 55 on Holland America cruises. But more precisely, on this cruise it seemed like just about everyone was over 60. We think that was because of the ... Read More
The most predominate issue to think about is that the passenger average age is more than 55 on Holland America cruises. But more precisely, on this cruise it seemed like just about everyone was over 60. We think that was because of the time of year – late November. The ship is geared to the pace of the old and decrepit, with few on-board activities that would appeal to any younger than 50. For instance, the theater performances highlights were performers of songs from Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, and Edith Pilaf. However, all were excellent. A broader problem arises from being on being on board with these old folk, sleeping and snoring on the lounge chairs in the atrium, clogging up the halls with walkers, and grouchy attitudes. Feels like being in an old folks’ home. However, there were many fine folk from American, Canada and Holland that were friendly and interesting to talk with. We met a few that were world travelers as well, and some that were on the ship for months at a time! The good: Large and comfortable room; good food (B+) and wine list, friendly staff (and fellow passengers). Cabin staff was efficient and courteous. Nice pool and atrium, pleasant, and overall functional ship. On this cruise, good ports of call, and good docking for easy access. All on and off procedures were perfect. The bad: No specialty restaurants worth trying. Very slow dinning service; on-board activities that appeal only to the old; no help on spending your own time at the ports of call, even though there was a sort of concierge available, he never knew anything about the port, or which part of it we would dock at, and never told us about the inexpensive and easy-to-use tour buses that we met once out the gates -- typical information blocking to get you to buy one of their overly expensive excursions. Internet was slow and very expensive, and down on the last day. Cocktails were mostly water; peanuts and other accompaniments were old and stale, actually really gross. Hot water was scarce, more than half the time we showered with Luke-warm water. The TV was old and the speakers bad. You must stand up to use the controller as the shelf on which the TV is mounted blocks the transmission of the controller signal. There is a DVD player, but no HDMI port to attach your own media player. The scary: I booked an aft facing room off the HAL website. The site showed a virtual tour of the room with picture window with a clear view looking out to the aft. In actuality, the view was somewhat blocked by a stair-well. That aside, the left pane in the two pain window was fogged, making it not possible to look through it and blocking the good light from entering the room. I complained about this to our cabin steward who said that he knew about it, that it had been that way for a few cruises, and asked me to complain to the front desk. I did, and they said they would look into it -- and I never heard anything more about it during the entire cruise from anyone. I asked about it a day or so before the end, and the front desk told me that they logged the complaint and that it would likely be fixed soon – but of course that gave me no comfort, but perhaps that is why they didn’t follow up, however they should have. The light above the bed had a plastic covering that became loose and vibrated loudly during stormy weather (so I took it apart). The ship shows signs of rust and areas that are not maintained well. The aft area off the Lido cafeteria is mostly wasted space with lounge chairs surrounded by a river of water -- never saw a sole use one, and that’s a large area to waste. The food at the Lido gradually became poor as the cruise was in its last days, and no effort was made to provide better food or service in the Lido on the two formal nights at the regular restaurant, and the dress code on those two formal nights was very strictly enforced, even down to the shoes. Perhaps HAL is out of tune with Europeans -- we don’t dress on cruise ships. Another issue is that my wife made a purchase from the ship using a European credit card (euro) and was not explained what the fees would add up to. She paid close to 14% in transaction and conversion fees. The paper work was imprecise, and she has said the clerk told her the cost would be around 3%. Happily, I was able to subtract the amount from our bill as an adjustment for the poor service as well as considerable more for the foggy window. All in all, a pleasant, relaxing, well run cruise on a good ship with very good food and friendly staff. However, we wouldn’t want to return anytime soon. Perhaps we’ll try this line again in about 5 or 6 years, when we’re in our 70s! Read Less
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